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Senate committee pleads for conservation of forests, protected areas

March 25, 2016

The Senate climate change committee pressed the national government to conserve the country’s forests and other protected areas as they are vital to improving water levels and food security and, thus, alleviating poverty.

Sen. Loren Legarda, committee chairwoman, issued the statement as the world celebrated the International Day of Forests on Mar 21 and the World Water Day on Mar 22.

Legarda said 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 added.

The lady lawmaker cited a United Nations (UN) report that said 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.

She also noted that many protected areas are vital sources of fresh water which is important in agriculture.

A study of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) showed that agriculture uses as much as 50 percent of freshwater in many countries and up to 90 percent in some developing countries, she said.

Legarda said 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 percent 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 been pushing Congress to pass 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, she said.

Source: Manila Bulletin