The fabled mountain of Mount Arayat in Pampanga, a mystical hill in Negros Occdental and a watershed in Masbate, should be declared as “protected areas, said Sen. Cynthia Villar.
Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, filed separate bills to put these areas under government protection. She cited the need to amend Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act to include at least three areas in the Philippines.
“We have to put in place adequate conservation measures and appropriate management schemes to safeguard the biodiversity of ecologically rich and biologically important areas in our country so that present and future generations will continue to benefit from it,” she said.
Villar pushed for the declaration of Mount Arayat in Pampanga as a protected area in SB 1713. Mt. Arayat, formely known as “Bunduk Alaya” or “Eastern Mountain,” is a fabled mountain in the municipalities of Arayat and Magalang. It has a height of 1,026 meters above sea level and is considered as an extinct stratovolcano.
Notable features include natural habitats of endemic and endangered flora and fauna; important source of water for domestic and agricultural use of the surrounding communities; clear water cascading from its waterfalls; and impressive rock formations.
It is home to 49 species of trees, 86 species of wild birds, 14 species of mammals, and 11 species of reptiles. Also found here are threatened tree species such as Kamagong gubat, Tindalo, Kupang and Bangkal and endangered species such as Arayat Pitogo, Bitaog and Teak. The mountain is also home to the nearly threatened monkey species known as the Philippine macaque.
A similar bill was filed by 3rd District of Pampanga Rep. Aurelio D. Gonzales Jr.
Villar also filed Senate Bill 1712, which seeks to declare the Hinakpan Mystical Hills in Negros Oriental as a protected area with a category of a natural monument.
Hinakpan Mystical Hills is a group of around 237 conical limestone peaks in unique shapes and sizes, found in the highland of Guilhulngan City. The hills which cover 1,331 hectares are scattered in the village of Hinakpan and resembles the Chocolate Hills of Bohol.
A similar bill was also filed in the House of Representatives by 1st District of Negros Oriental Rep. Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong.
Villar likewise filed Senate Bill 1711, which seeks to include the Tugbo Watershed Forest Reserve in Masbate as an E-NIPAS protected site.
The watershed serves as the primary water source of Masbate City and Mobo. It is characterized by a moderate to intensive forest cover in a mountainous topography.
Villar noted that the challenges confronting conservation efforts on the watershed include deforestation, illegal logging, hunting of wildlife, and other destructive human activities, which may include quarrying.
A counterpart measure, House Bill 462, was also filed by 2nd District of Masbate Rep. Elisa T. Kho.
At present, there are 107 protected areas covering 3 million hectares in the Philippines that have been so declared through legislation.
Villar noted that based on records and suitability assessments by the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, there are still numerous sites in the country.
Based on records and suitability assessments by the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, she said there are still numerous sites in the country that have to be given ‘protected area’ status by legislative action in order to ensure its conservation.
Villar is the principal author of the E-NIPAS Act which expanded the list of protected areas from 13 to 107. These include popular tourism destinations as well as internationally-recognized critical zones. The law was signed on June 22, 2018.