By Ellalyn de Vera-Ruiz
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is putting high hopes in a new law to provide a more extensive protection and effective preservation of 94 protected areas (PAs) in the country.
DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said the implementation of Republic Act 11038, the known as the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act of 2018, is expected to boost ongoing efforts to conserve and protect the country’s rich biological diversity and ecosystems.
The E-NIPAS Act, which was signed into law by President Duterte in June, places 94 PAs nationwide under government management and protection.
“Our country’s unique biodiversity is supported by a wide variety of ecosystems, but now, more than ever, many of which are deeply threatened by developments, unsustainable use, and other human activities and recently, natural calamities resulting in habitat loss and reduced ecosystems services and benefits, among others,” Cimatu said.
The landmark legislation mandates the DENR to come up with the implementing rules and regulations within six months from its effectivity. While President Duterte signed RA 11038 on June 22, the same was published in the Official Gazette on July 16 and took effect on August 1.
“Today, we rise with hopes against the sobering backdrop of this biodiversity loss. As policymakers, we are bound with our duty to create a law that ensures our biodiversity-rich lands and waters are protected,” Cimatu said.
He underscored the need to keep endemic species “safe and flourishing” in PAs, which comprise “13 percent of the country’s total land surface or less than 2 percent of the marine area.”
DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez has highlighted the salient features of the law, including the establishment of 94 PAs as national parks.
Other features include expanding the composition of each Protected Area Management Board; creation of Protected Area Management Office; administration and management of NIPAS; designation of buffer zones; and recognition of existing local communities, townships and town centers, as well territories and areas occupied by indigenous peoples.
The law also provides mechanisms for renewable energy development; grant of tax exemptions; wider coverage of prohibited acts; imposition of higher fines and penalities; and administrative and criminal liabilities of concerned local government units.