Rizal watershed MOA holders encouraged to apply for SAPA

Rizal watershed MOA holders encouraged to apply for SAPA

By Rjhay E Laurea

MANILA — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) urged holders of memorandum of agreement (MOA) for projects that are known as special uses in all protected areas, including the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL), to apply for a Special Use Agreement in Protected Areas or SAPA.

A SAPA is a deal between the DENR and a project proponent, which has a term of 25 years and is renewable for another 25 years.

In the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992 or the Expanded NIPAS (ENIPAS) Act, special uses may be okay in protected areas except in strict protection zones and strict nature reserves, due to compliance with the environmental compliance certificate, and comply of corresponding user fee.

The law also says that DENR Sec has the authority to know a system-wide set of fees and charges to ensure sustainable funding of protected areas.

“The law requires a certain type of agreement with the DENR on special uses of protected areas. We are bound by this law. The conversion of a MOA into a SAPA is also an opportunity for the DENR to correct its course and cure defects in the MOA. Such defects include unconstitutional provisions, and provisions that violate the ENIPAS Act, and the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act,” DENR Acting Secretary Jim O. Sampulna said.

Rules and regulations of the ENIPAS Act state that MOAs issued by the DENR in protected areas due to the effectiveness of the NIPAS Act shall be turned into SAPA upon satisfactory compliance with requirements.

Sampulna said this is the “best possible solution” that the DENR has come up with so far after a series of consultations and meetings with many stakeholders.

The 1987 Constitution sets a limit of 25 years, renewable for another 25 years, for the term of deals that the State enters into for the exploration, development, and use of natural resources.

A SAPA is the type of deal to be used for special uses of protected areas.

The rules executing the NIPAS Act state that ecotourism is one of the special uses of protected areas.

SAPAs aims to give access and economic chances to indigenous peoples, tenured migrant communities, and other protected area stakeholders; rise the development of special-use projects consistent with the principles of feasible development and biodiversity conservation in cooperation with stakeholders; guide the development of the zones of protected areas under their management objectives, and give a revenue stream for the viable management of protected areas.

Under a MOA signed in 2017, the DENR has given a perpetual land trust to the Masungi Georeserve Foundation.

The MOA did not have the free, prior informed consent of the indigenous people whose ancestral domain overlaps with the 2,700 hectares covered by the MOA. It also does not for the payment of user fees.

In 2018, the DENR signed DENR Administrative Order 2018-05, Addendum to DENR Administrative Order No. 2007-17 on the Rules and Regulations Governing Special Uses within Protected Areas, which says that “all existing Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Special Uses within Protected Area shall be converted into SAPA in accordance with DAO 2007-17 and this Order.”

For now, Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Director Natividad Y. Bernardino said the DENR welcomes development allies that are as passionate as the Masungi Georeserve Foundation.

“I believe that the aims of the DENR and the Foundation are the same. We just have to ensure that cooperation with development partners conform with the law and policy, such as the provision of sustainable financing of the protected areas system through payment of user fees,” Bernardino said.

She swore to work with the stakeholders involved and gov’t staff in determining a fair, equitable, and viable deal toward common goals. (ai/mtvn)

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