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Protected Areas Crucial to Food Security, Poverty Alleviation—Legarda

July 14, 2014

Senator Loren Legarda today stressed the importance of the country’s protected areas in improving food security and addressing poverty.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, said that protected areas are characterized by thriving biodiversity and have unique features that support agriculture, water supply and other economic activities.

“Establishing protected areas is not 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 explained

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.

Meanwhile, establishing marine protected areas allows for the full development of underwater species and recovery of the area, which result in replenishment of marine resources.

Legarda said that there are 113 areas in the country declared through Presidential proclamations as protected areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act. However, only 13 have proceeded to be legislated as such.

The Agusan Marsh, Aliwagwag Falls and Apo Island are among the 100 areas included in the proposed Protected Areas Declaration Act filed by Legarda.

The Agusan Marsh holds around 15% of the country’s fresh water resources. Parts of the marsh are used for traditional fishponds and rice paddies.

The Aliwagwag Falls in Davao Oriental supports about 17,000 hectares of rice land.

In Apo Island in Negros Oriental, the establishment of a marine sanctuary helped replenish fish stocks in the island, thus resulting in improved fish catch in the surrounding areas of the marine sanctuary. It has also become a popular snorkeling and dive spot.

“These are but a few of more than a hundred protected areas in the country and each has significant contributions to their respective communities and to the nation as a whole. Legislation for the remaining 100 protected areas must be approved to ensure improved conservation programs and appropriate funding,” said Legarda.

“As stewards of Earth’s resources, we are responsible for the sustainable use of our natural resources. We need to work together to conserve and, if possible, rehabilitate the natural resources that have been damaged by our irresponsible acts. We have to work double time because the protection of our environment is also crucial in our effort towards building resilience and adapting to the changing climate,” she added.

The proposed Protected Areas Declaration Act under Senate Bill No. 1901 is currently under review by the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. The next committee hearing is scheduled on July 16, 2014 at the Senate.