By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senators have lauded the enactment of the measure which places 94 other protected areas under government protection and imposes stiffer penalties to violators.
Senator Cynthia Villar said the signing of the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act is well-timed amid calls for the protection of tourism spots and internationally-recognized critical zones.
Villar is chairperson of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and a principal sponsor of Republic Act 11038,which was signed into law by President Duterte last June 22.
“We are very happy to come up with this legislation ensuring protection for more areas in our mega-diverse country. This legislation is timely, given the heightened public clamor to protect and rehabilitate our popular tourist spots,” Villar said in a statement.
Villar, particularly, cited the inclusion of the Las Piñas-Paranaque Wetland Park as among the 94 areas placed under government’s protection.
Also included are the Agusan Marsh in the Agusan del Sur and Olango Island in Cebu; and famous tourist spots Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte, Chocolate Hills and Panglao Island in Bohol, Apo Island in Negros Oriental, Mt. Mayon in Albay, Taal Volcano in Batangas, Hinulugang Tak-tak in Rizal, and Palaui Island in Cagayan.
ASEAN Heritage Sites Mount Timpoong-Hibok-Hibok (Camiguin) and Mount Iglit-Baco (Mindoro); and Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary (Tawi-Tawi) are also declared national parks under the RA 11038.
The protection of these sites, Villar said,
will “ensure that the future generation of Filipinos will still have the opportunity to take pride and find joy in our country’s rich biodiversity.”
Environment advocate Sen. Loren Legarda also hailed the enactment of the E-NIPAS, saying the law will strengthen climate adaptation mechanisms and conservation of the country’s biodiversity.
“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,” Legarda, principal author and co-sponsor of the law, said.
Sen. Joel Villanueva, also a co-author of the measure, thanked President Duterte for signing the law.
“We are proud to be one of the authors of this important legislation as it guarantees additional protection to biologically important public lands that are habitats of our rare and threatened species of fauna and flora,” he said.
“We also express our deepest gratitude to President Duterte for supporting our well-meaning cause that would ensure sustainable use of resources and preserve our genetic diversity,” he added.
RA 11038 amends Republic Act 7586 and increases the number of protected areas covered by legislation from 13 to 107, for a total of three million hectares.
The E-NIPAS Act also mandates the creation of a Protected Area Management Plan for each of the 94 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.
Read more: PRRD signs expanded NIPAS, ECERF Act