By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Cynthia Villar welcomes President Rodrigo Duterte’s enactment into law of her five measures, declaring Mt. Pulag and four other sites in the country as protected areas (PAs).
She thanked the President for signing Republic Acts (RAs) 11684, 11685, 11686, 11687, and 11688, which added Mt. Arayat in Pampanga, Mt. Pulag in Benguet, Naga-Kabasalan in Zamboanga Sibugay, Tirad Pass in Ilocos Sur, and Banao in Kalinga to the list of protected areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS).
The NIPAS was established under Republic Act 7586, as amended by RA 11038 or the Expanded NIPAS Act of 2018.
With this, Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, said there are now 112 protected areas in the country that have been so declared through legislation.
“The signing of these laws would mean more forest lands; landscapes; ecologically rich, unique and biologically important areas that are habitats of threatened species of plants and animals; biographic zones and related ecosystem,whether terrestrial wetland or marine would be protected,” noted Villar.
“These areas would be given protected status by legislative action, in order to ensure their conservation,” she added.
Villar had pushed for the passage of the E-NIPAS Act of 2018, which strengthened the legal framework for the establishment, management and maintenance of all designated protected areas in the country or those that are identified to be ecologically rich and biologically important public lands.
“Under the NIPAS Act, it is the policy of the state “to secure for the Filipino people of present and future generations the perpetual existence of all native plants and animals through the establishment of a comprehensive system of integrated protected areas,” said Villar.
“I hope that all those concerned will get their acts together and strongly adhere to the provisions of these newly-enacted laws,” further stated the senator.
The laws cited that effective administration of these areas is possible only through cooperation among national government, local government units (LGUs), concerned nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), private entities and local communities.
The laws also mandate to ensure the mobilization of resources for the institutional mechanisms, as well as the full scientific and technical support needed for the conservation of biodiversity and the integrity of the ecosystems, culture and indigenous practices.
Under RAs 11684, 11685, 11686, 11687, and 11688, “the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), upon the recommendation of the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), may designate areas surrounding the protected areas for the purpose of providing an ‘extra layer of protection’ where restrictions may be applied.”
“In cases where the designated buffer zone would cover private lands, the owners thereof shall be required to design their development with due consideration to the protected area management plan,” the laws further read.
The laws noted that “the use and enjoyment of the protected landscapes must be consistent with the principles of biological diversity and sustainable development.” (ai/mtvn)