15k-hectare zone in Aurora eyed as protected areas
DINALUNGAN, Aurora–Some 15,635 hectares of lands in these province, including over 5,700 hectares in this northern town, are being eyed for conversion into protected areas (PAs) under a legislative measure filed in the Senate.
Sought to be converted into PAs are the 6,471.08-hectare Amro River Protected Landscape (ARPL) in the municipality of Casiguran, the 3,371.332-hectare Dinadiawan River Protected Landscape (DRPL) in Dipaculao town and the 2,266.47-hectare Simbahan-Talagas Protected Landscapes (STPL) and the 3,526.29-hectare Talaytay Protected Landscapes (TPL), both in this town.
The proposed conversion is contained in Senate Bill 1901 introduced by Sen. Loren Legarda entitled “An Act declaring as Protected Areas and Buffer Zones the parcels of lands designated as such by the President of the Republic of the Philippines pursuant to Republic Act 7586, otherwise known as the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act, providing for their management and for other purposes.”
Protected areas refer to identified portions of land and water set aside by reason of their unique physical and biological significance, which managed to enhance biological diversity and protected against destructive human exploitation and included as a component of the NIPAS.
ARPL, DRPL, STPL and TPL are covered by Presidential Proclamations 267, 274, 278 and 283, respectively, all issued on April 23,2000 by then-President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.
Legarda said the four, just like other PAs, have unique features that support agriculture, water supply and other economic activities. “Establishing protected areas is only an environmental issue but also a gut issue. It is crucial to food security, water security and poverty alleviation because these areas are rich sources of basic resources,” she said.
She added that many PAs are vital sources of freshwater which is crucial in agriculture, citing a study of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) showing that agriculture utilizes as much as 50 percent of freshwater in many countries and up to 90 percent in developing countries.
Under the bill’s explanatory note, Legarda noted that the Philippines is one of 17 megadiverse countries which together host between 70 to 80 percent of the world’s life forms and the country is believed to harbor more diversity of life than any other country on earth on a per hectare basis.
Unfortunately, however, the country is losing its biodiversity at an unprecedented scale, the bill stated.
The measure added that Article 12, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution stipulates that Congress shall determine by law the specific limits of forestlands and national parks, marking clearly their boundaries on the ground.
It was towards this end when RA 7586 or the NIPAS Act of 1992 was enacted establishing a system of protected areas within the classification of national parks as provided for in the Constitution. The said system consists of all areas or islands in the country proclaimed, designated or set aside pursuant to a law, presidential decree, presidential proclamation or executive order as national park, game refuge, bird and wildlife and fish sanctuary, wilderness area, nature reserve, watershed, mangrove reserve, naturl and historical landmark, protected and managed landscape/seascape and identified virgin forests before the effectivity of the NIPAS Act.
Legarda, chairperson of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, said since 1992 when the Act was passed, 113 areas in the country have already been declared as PAs through presidential proclamations. However, only 13 of them, or roughly 11 percent, have been legislated.
The proposed measure mandates the establishment of a protected area office (PAO) for each of the PA to be headed by a full-time superintendent with a full personnel complement, including rangers. The PAO will work under the protected area management board created under Section 11 of the NIPAS Act. (Manny Galvez)