Additional protected areas proposed for declaration
BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources through its Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau is proposing to the Congress for the declaration of additional 17 protected areas in the Philippines. Two of these proposed protected areas, the Northern Negros Natural Park and Northwest Panay Peninsula Natural Park, are in Western Visayas Region.
The final declaration of a protected area, under the Philippines’ National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 or Republic Act 7586, is through the passage of an act by the Congress. However, after almost two decades since the NIPAS Act was passed only 12 of the more than 200 candidate sites all throughout the country has been declared by Congress as protected areas. Two of these Congress-declared protected areas are in Negros, the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park and the Sagay Marine Reserve.
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje disclosed that the declarations of these
protected areas are necessary in ensuring the conservation of the Philippines’ amazing biodiversity. Protected area is a major management tool and strategy adopted by various countries, including the Philippines, to promote biodiversity conservation. As a requirement, protected areas should have legal declarations. As such, the Congress is mandated to declare protected areas in the Philippines.
As a process, each proposed protected area shall be subjected to a suitability assessment to determine its conformity on biodiversity requirements. The area should contain unique ecosystems and habitat types that inhabit endemic species of flora and fauna. The other consideration for the declaration of a protected area is the ecosystems services it offers, like watershed values, carbon sequestration potentials, soil and water conservation, and mitigation measures on natural disaster impacts, among others.
Aside from scientific criteria, the proposal to declare a protected area shall also include social acceptability, which means public consultations and hearings are necessary. Reviews at local, regional and national levels shall be undertaken before the DENR endorses the declaration of a protected area to the President. After the issuance of a Presidential Proclamation, the Congress shall deliberate and enact a specific law for the final declaration of a protected area. Those areas that have been declared as national parks, forests reserves, and the likes before RA 7586 was enacted are the NIPAS initial components and are similarly required to undergo the processes for new declarations.
It should be noted that protected area is considered as a highest form of conservation modality because it has a lot of restrictions and regulations. It should receive a highest standard of protection measure from any form of destructive activities. However, many of our protected areas here in the Philippines are facing numerous anthropogenic disturbances, particularly human encroachment, land use conversion, timber and wildlife poaching, and agricultural and industrial development, to name a few. Moreover, protected areas are still languishing from lack of adequate budget and personnel for their effective management. Historically, the protected area management is the least priority of the national government in terms of budget allocation annually. Not even the Congress-declared protected areas are now receiving enough funds for their management, while many of the NIPAS initial components have no management systems in place.
Some critiques say that the protected area system in the Philippines has been inadequately
implemented hence the need to amend the NIPAS Act. However, the NIPAS Act is a legislation process code and it can be amended through the site-specific protected area declaration by the Congress. With this in mind, proponents of the proposed protected area declaration should look into the most appropriate measures for the subject area even if it requires the amendment of the NIPAS Act.
The 17 proposed protected areas are Siargao Islands Protected Land and Seascape, Mout Hilong-Hilong Range, Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, Samar Island Natural Park, Apo Reef Natural Park, Malampaya Sound Protected Land and Seascape, El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area, Turtle Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Bataan National Park, Casecnan Protected Landscape, Aurora Integrated Protected Area, Mount Guiting-Guiting Natural Park, Tagub-Kampalili Range Protected Landscape, Mount Balatukan Range, Buug Natural Biotic Area, Northwest Panay Peninsula National Park, and Northern Negros Natural Park.
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