Senate OKs bill increasing number of PH protected areas
The Senate on Monday approved a bill that expanded the number of protected areas in the country.
Senate Bill No. 1444, or the “Expanded NIPAS Act of 2017” was approved on third and final hearing with 22 affirmative votes, zero negative vote, and zero abstention.
It would bring 92 new areas, including six internationally-recognized natural sites, under the protection and management of the country’s landmark National Integrated and Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act.
The bill seeks to amend Republic Act 7586 or the NIPAS Act of 1992, in order “to include more areas and to ensure greater protection for all protected areas.”
Senator Cynthia Villar, chief of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, explained that the NIPAS Act, which was first enacted in 1992 as a “mechanism to conserve the biodiversity in the Philippines,” provides legal framework for the establishment and management of protected areas in the country.
She said among the 92 new protected areas, six sites were internationally recognized and classified as ASEAN Heritage Sites: Mount Timpoong-Hibok-Hibok and Mount Iglit-Baco; Malaysia-Philippines Heritage Parks, Turtles Islands Heritage Protected Area; and Ramsar Sites Agusan Marsh, Olango Island and the Las Piñas Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA).
The senator said the key provisions of the bill were the creation of a “Protected Area Management Office” for each protected area, and rationalization of the existing Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB), which include local government officials, indigenous peoples, non-government organizations, academic institutions and women.
The bill upholds Indigenous Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs), “apart from merely respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their ancestral lands within protected areas.”
Villar added that the bill allows the development of renewable energy resources of the land, as long as these are “subject to adoption of reduced impact technologies, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and such development is not detrimental to ecosystem functions and biodiversity.”
The senator explained that the bill was meant to address the worsening cases of habitat loss, destruction and deterioration of many protected areas in the country.
“Time has always been of great essence when it comes to the preservation and protection of our country’s biodiversity. But it is a sad fact that many areas in our megadiverse country remain under-protected. In fact, the protection of some supposedly protected areas remain inadequate,” Villar said.
The Philippines has been known as one of the 35 world’s biodiversity hotspots or “regions containing exceptional concentrations of plant endemism, but experiencing high rates of habitat loss.”
“As the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity pointed out, the continued deterioration of natural resources and ecosystems, as well as the extinction of numerous animal and plant species pose a threat to sustainable development. The clock is fast ticking away,” Villar said.
The bill was authored by Senators Cynthia Villar, Loren Legarda, Chiz Escudero, Nancy Binay, Migz Zubiri, and Joel Villanueva. Eiriel Rain Dollete/INQUIRER.net trainee
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