PRESIDENT Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) has signed a law declaring Mt. Arayat in Arayat town in Pampanga’s third legislative district as a protected landscape or area.
Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales Jr. on Friday thanked the President for signing Republic Act (RA) No. 11684, of which the congressman is the principal author.
“The law will enable the national government, through the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DENR), the provincial government of Pampanga, and the towns of Arayat and Magalang, where the mountain is located, to conserve and preserve its natural resources, cultural significance, and tourism potential for the benefit of our people,” Gonzales said.
He said the DENR could promote the mountain and nearby communities as tourist destinations in tandem with the local government units (LGUs).
“They could also encourage small-scale farming, mountain climbing, hiking, biking, and similar activities. We have good roads leading to the protected area, as well as good infrastructure there,” he said.
Under the law, the DENR secretary could designate buffer zones as an additional layer of protection to the Mt. Arayat Protected Landscape (MAPL).
If the designated buffer areas affect private lands, the landowners would be required to design their development with due consideration to the MAPL management plan.
The protected landscape would be managed by a board headed by the DENR regional director and composed of senators who are residents of Pampanga, district representatives of LGUs where Mt. Arayat is located, and representatives of concerned LGUs and government agencies, including the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Agriculture (DA).
While Arayat is part of Gonzales’ constituency, the town of Magalang belongs to the 1st district.
The management board could charge reasonable fees for the use of MAPL facilities. Collections would go to a trust fund for the maintenance and development of the area.
The DENR secretary is mandated to include additional funding for the MAPL in his annual budget proposal to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Congress.