By Mario Casayuran
Senator Loren Legarda said on Wednesday the enactment by Malacanang of a law strengthens the conservation of 97 ecologically critical areas in the country.
The new law is the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018 (ENIPAS) under Republic Act No. 11038. It was signed on June 22.
Legarda, principal author and co-sponsor of the measure, said that the law would strengthen climate adaptation mechanisms and the conservation of Philippine biodiversity.
The lady senator Senator has pushed for the passage of the ENIPAS since 2013 to actively address the areas that remain under protected.
“Although we already have the NIPAS Act of 1992, many important ecosystems remained under protected, including open seas, coastal areas, wetlands and tropical forests,” Legarda said.
“The enactment of this measure into law will pave the way for a more extensive protection and effective preservation of the remaining protected areas in the country by giving more access to funding for protection programs as well as the prosecution of prohibited acts enumerated in the law,” she added.
Since 1992, 113 protected areas have been declared through Presidential proclamations under the NIPAS Law. However, only 13 protected areas have finally proceeded to be legislated as such in the more than 20 years since the NIPAS Act was enacted.
“The Philippines is one of the few countries blessed with very rich biological diversity. However, a large number of species – flora, fauna as well as animals — have become extinct due to overexploitation, habitat loss and pollution. As we work towards achieving an economically and technologically competitive society, let us not neglect the health of our environment because these protected areas are crucial to the survival of men and all species alike,” Legarda said.
To provide a guide in formulating individual plans for each of the protected areas, the ENIPAS Act mandates the creation of a Protected Area Management Plan for each of the 97 areas, which will be executed by a Protected Area Management Board composed of local government units, environment officials, indigenous peoples representatives, academe, and civil society.
Moreover, Legarda said that endangering the precarious situation of our country’s biodiversity is the challenge of climate change and among the projected impacts of climate change is the loss of thousands of species as well as changes in the natural ecosystem.
“The increasing loss of biodiversity is being attributed to development activities and land degradation, especially overgrazing and deforestation, as well as pollution, overfishing, hunting, infrastructure development, species invasion, land-use change, and the overuse of freshwater. Thus the conservation of our protected areas must be part of our climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts,” she noted.
Legarda said the passage of the ENIPAS Act is just the beginning.
‘’Now that we already have the legal mechanism to protect these critical areas and prevent biodiversity loss, the challenge for us is to ensure its strict implementation as well as promoting awareness on the importance of conserving biodiversity and of the underlying threats to it,” she said.