Sen. Cynthia A. Villar is seeking to include more protected areas in the Philippines to preserve the country’s biodiversity.
Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, said there are still many places in the country experiencing high rates of habitat degradation and biodiversity loss.
In her opening remarks during Tuesday’ committee hearing on the country’s protected areas, Villar lamented that hotspots have lost around 86% of their original habitat. They are also considered to be significantly threatened due to man-made exploitation and by climate change.
“Hence, there are still many areas in the country, such as wetlands, marine sanctuaries, tropical forests, watersheds, wildlife sanctuaries, among others, that remain under-protected and one certain way of affording protection to these areas is by designating them as protected areas through legislation,” she said.
The senator noted that adding more protected areas becomes even more urgent and relevant now due to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which runs from 2021 to 2030.
This was declared so that all nations can massively scale up the restoration of destroyed ecosystems in their respective jurisdictions.
Due to this, Villar said it is an opportune time to discuss the merits of the seven bills on six proposed protected areas.
The following bills are:
• Bill expanding the area of an existing legislated protected area;
• SB No. 354 and SB No. 1259 referring to the Paoay Lake Protected
Landscape in Ilocos Norte;
• SB No. 1536 referring to the expansion of the Las Pinas-Paranaque
Wetland Park, a protected area in Las Piñas and Parañaque;
• SB No. 1691, which refers to the San Francisco Protected Landscape (commonly known as the Mulanay Watershed Forest Reserve) in Quezon Province;
• SB No. 1725 referring to the Alibijaban Protected Landscape and Seascape also in Quezon Province;
• SB No. 355 referring to the Taklong and Tandog Group of Islands Natural Park in Guimaras; and
• SB No. 517, which refers to the Bantayan Group of Islands Protected
Landscape and Seascape in Cebu.
Villar recalled that during the 17th Congress, he strongly pushed for the passage of RA No. 11038 or the ENIPAS Act of 2018, which strengthened the legal framework for the establishment, management and maintenance of all designated protected areas in the country.
The Expanded NIPAS Act of 2018 facilitated the legislation of ninety four (94) more protected areas or PAs, in addition to the 13 PAs individually legislated under the original NIPAS law or RA No. 7586.
In the 18th Congress, 7 more areas were declared protected which brought to a total of 114 protected area in the Philippines.