The Senate on Monday, Sept. 27 approved on third and final reading five local bills that seek to declare five “ecologically vital areas” as protected sites under the National Integrated Protected Areas Systems (NIPAS).
Approved were House Bill No. (HBN) 9329 or the Banao Protected Landscape Act in Balbalan, Kalinga; HBN 9327 or the Tirad Pass Protected Landscape Act in the municipalities of Gregorio del Pilar, Quirino, Sigay, Cervantes and Suyo in Ilocos Sur and HBN 9326 or the Naga-Kabasalan Protected Act in the municipalities of Naga and Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay.
Also included are HBN 9325 or the Mt. Pulag Protected Landscape Act in the municipalities of Kabayan, Boko and Buguias in Benguet; Tinoc, Ifugao and Kayapa in Nueva Vizcaya and HBN 9206 or the Mt. Arayat Protected Landscape Act in Pampanga.
NIPAS refers to the classification and administration of all designated protected areas to maintain essential ecological processes and life-support systems, preserve genetic diversity and ensure sustainable use of resources found therein in order to maintain their natural conditions to the greatest extent possible.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, head of the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change, said passage of the measures into law would expand the conservation and protection of the Philippines rich biodiversity.
Under the NIPAS Act, she said Congress was able to strengthen the protection status of 13 ecologically important areas through individual legislations such as the Batanes Group of Islands and Islets in Batanes; the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park in the Province of Isabela; Bangan Hills National Park in the Province of Nueva Vizcaya; and the Banahaw and San Cristobal Protected Landscape in Laguna and Quezon, among others.
The senator also pointed out that the 2018 E-NIPAS law, which created the 94 compilation protected area, has also brought the total legislated protected areas to 107.
“The need to secure for the present and future Filipinos the perpetual existence of all native plants and animals has become more urgent and necessary given the profound impact of human activities on all components of the natural environment, particularly the effect of, increasing population, resource exploitation and industrial advancement, and in recognizing the critical importance of protecting and maintaining the natural, biological and physical diversities of the environment,” Villar stressed.
The Philippines is one of the 17 biodiverse rich countries in the world, containing two thirds of the earth’s biodiversity and 70 to 80 percent of the world’s plant and animal species, Villar emphasized.
Yet, she said, the Philippines is also among the world’s biodiversity hot spots or those areas experiencing high rates of habitat degradation and biodiversity loss. These hotspots are areas that have lost around 86 percent of their original habitat and are also considered significantly threatened by extinction induced by man-made exploitation and climate change.
Villar said there are still many areas in the country that remain under protected such as wetlands, marine sanctuaries, tropical forests, watersheds and wildlife sanctuaries.
“We need to declare more protected areas through legislation if we are to fulfill the State guarantee under our Constitution of protecting and advancing the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature,” the senator stressed.