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Cynthia seeks more ‘protected areas’ to protect biodiversity

February 8, 2023 Camille P. Balagtas 259 views

TO remove the Philippines from the list of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, Senator Cynthia A. Villar wants to include more protected areas through legislation.

Villar, the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, said there are still many places in the country experiencing high rates of habitat degradation and biodiversity loss.

In her opening remarks during the Senate hearing on the country’s protected areas, Villar lamented that hotspots had lost around 86% of their original habitat.

“Hotspots are also considered to be significantly threatened due to man-made exploitation and by climate change,” said Villar.

“Hence, there are still many areas in the country, such as wetlands, marine sanctuaries, tropical forests, watersheds, wildlife sanctuaries, among others, that remain under-protected, and one certain way of affording protection to these areas is by designating them as protected areas through legislation,” she added.

The senator noted that adding more protected areas becomes even more urgent and relevant now due to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which runs from 2021 to 2030.

This was declared so that all nations can massively scale up the restoration of destroyed ecosystems.

Due to this, Villar said it is an opportunity to discuss the merits of the seven bills on six proposed protected areas.

The following bills are:

Senate Bill (SB) expanding the area of an existing legislated protected area;

SB No. 354 and SB No. 1259 referring to the Paoay Lake Protected Landscape in Ilocos Norte;

SB No. 1536 referring to the expansion of the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park, a protected area in Las Piñas and Parañaque;

SB No. 1691, which refers to the San Francisco Protected Landscape (commonly known as the Mulanay Watershed Forest Reserve) in Quezon Province;

SB No. 1725 referring to the Alibijaban Protected Landscape and Seascape also in Quezon Province;

SB No. 355 refers to the Taklong and Tandog Group of Islands Natural Park in Guimaras; and SB No. 517, refers to the Bantayan Group of Islands Protected Landscape and Seascape in Cebu.

Villar recalled that during the 17th Congress, she strongly pushed for the passage of RA (Republic Act) No. 11038 or the ENIPAS Act of 2018, which strengthened the legal framework for the establishment, management, and maintenance of all designated protected areas.

“The Expanded NIPAS Act of 2018 facilitated the legislation of ninety-four (94) more protected areas or PAs, in addition to the 13 PAs individually legislated under the original NIPAS law or RA No. 7586,” she said.

In the 18th Congress, seven more areas were declared protected, which brought a total of 114 protected areas in the Philippines.