Cimatu tells legislators: Protect wetlands

Published August 31, 2021, 1:44 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu is urging lawmakers to come up with and pass a measure protecting the country’s wetlands in a bid to fight threats of climate change.

Cimatu made the call as he said, “there has been no single Philippine legislation that advances wetland conservation and its wise use.”

He added that while there are existing laws containing provisions that directly and indirectly promote wetland conservation, “not one deal specifically on wetlands.”

“If legislated, the national law on wetland will serve as the mother law for all wetlands in the country including peatlands. This will address the gray areas on our existing policies relevant to wetlands conservation,” Cimatu said in a statement.

Photo courtesy of DENR

Currently, the country has two existing bills for wetland protection and conservation, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said. They are the substitute bill entitled,“An Act Institutionalizing the National Wetlands Conservation Policy”; and House Bill 7206 or the proposed National Peatland and Peatland Resources Act.

The substitute bill, which will be known as the National Wetlands Conservation Act, will apply to the protection and conservation of all types of wetlands in the Philippines. This includes the protection of inland wetlands, such as rivers, lakes, marshes and swamps, coastal and marine, and human-made wetlands.

In the case of human-made wetlands, the proposed legislation will apply to those with high biodiversity value, critical wildlife habitat, and are part of the migratory routes of birds and fishes.

DENR Undersecretary for Special Concerns Edilberto Leonardo said the public’s role in raising awareness for the protection and conservation of wetlands, including peatlands, is crucial for the immediate legislation of the existing bills.

A peatland is a type of wetland whose peat soils consist of carbon-rich dead and decaying plant matter. If kept wet, a peatland can store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests combined.

Leonardo said wetlands are one of the most productive habitats on earth which provide various benefits critical for human survival, such as a source of drinking water, food, shelter, and livelihood activities. “It also plays an important role in disaster risk reduction such as flood control,” he added.

“If our legislators would see and know how strongly the public supports these bills, they will realize how important the passage of these bills are into national laws,” he said. Leonardo called on the public to express its support to the measure by using social media and join public discussion about wetlands’ benefits. “They can even send petitions or letters of support to their district representatives and local government units to conserve these critical ecosystems,” he added.