Legarda Highlights Importance of Forests, Protected Areas in Water Security

March 21, 2016

Senator Loren Legarda today stressed on the importance of conserving the country’s forests and other protected areas that are vital to improving water and food security and alleviating poverty.

Legarda, UNISDR Global Champion for Resilience, made the statement in celebration of the International Day of Forests (March 21) and World Water Day (March 22).

“Water is a vital source of life and our forests are key to the Earth’s supply of freshwater. That is why we have been eagerly pushing for stronger measures that will protect our protected areas because this is not only an environmental issue, but also a gut issue. Our forests and protected areas are crucial to food security, water security and poverty alleviation,” she explained.

According to the United Nations, forested watersheds and wetlands supply 75 percent of the world’s accessible freshwater, but almost 80 percent of the world’s population is exposed to high levels of threat to water security.

The Senator noted that many protected areas are vital source of freshwater, which is important in agriculture. A study of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) showed that agriculture uses as much as 50% of freshwater in many countries and up to 90% in some developing countries.

The Agusan Marsh in Agusan del Sur and the Aliwagwag Falls in Davao Oriental are examples of protected areas that are vital sources of water. The Agusan Marsh holds around 15% of the country’s fresh water resources and parts of the marsh are used for traditional fishponds and rice paddies; while the Aliwagwag Falls supports about 17,000 hectares of rice land.

Legarda has fervently pushed for the passage of the proposed Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (ENIPAS) to actively help areas that remain under-protected, including open seas, coastal areas, wetlands and tropical forests.

The Senate has approved the proposed ENIPAS, which will strengthen conservation of about a hundred protected areas in the country, but the counterpart measure in the House of Representatives is yet to be passed.