Legarda to Fast Track Approval of Bills on Preservation of Forestlands and Protected Areas

September 14, 2013

Senator Loren Legarda said that she will prioritize the approval of proposed measures that will ensure the preservation of forests and other protected areas in the country.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, said that she will file an omnibus bill on the demarcation of each and every protected area classified under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act and work on the swift passage of related bills, including the proposed Final Forest Limits Act.

“We need to ensure that our forests are restored to its old grandeur and richness to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs,” said Legarda.

During the committee hearing on the proposed 2014 budget of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Secretary Ramon Paje said that of the country’s 15.8 million hectares of forestland, only 7.2 million hectares are forested.

The DENR said that although they are undertaking the delineation of the specific limits of forestlands and national parks, marking clearly their boundaries on the ground, the Final Forest Limits Act is vital in ensuring that these boundaries will be unchanged.

Recognizing the importance of such law, Legarda said that, “with demarcated and properly identified forestlands, the national government can better plan the utilization of the natural resources of the country, and local government units would be better equipped to initiate and implement development projects and programs with due regard to the preservation and protection of the integrity of the demarcated forest lands.”

Moreover, the DENR said that legislation is needed to demarcate each of the 113 protected areas under the NIPAS Act because only 13 of the protected areas have specific laws that mandate their establishment and demarcation.

Legarda said that she will file an omnibus bill to ensure the establishment and demarcation of the remaining 100 protected areas.

“I laud the DENR for undertaking the necessary action for the preservation of our forests and protected areas even with the absence of the necessary law. On my part, I will work on the immediate passage of these measures, and I hope that the environmental challenges we are facing will be addressed with the legislative and executive branches’ partnership in finding ways to protect and conserve the country’s natural resources and prevent illegal activities that destroy our ecosystems,” Legarda concluded.