Senate passes bill to protect 97 ecologically-important areas

July 29, 2015

MANILA, Philippines – Ninety-seven more ecologically-critical areas are one step closer to getting national protection.

The Senate passed on 3rd and final reading the Enhanced National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act, a bill that will give national protection to treasures of Philippine biodiversity, like the Apo Reef Natural Park and the Mayon Volcano National Park.

Championed by Senator Loren Legarda, Senate Bill No 2712 declares 97 natural parks, protected landscapes or seascapes, and reserves as protected areas under national law.

Most of these areas were proclaimed protected areas by previous Philippine presidents. But such proclamations are temporal, allowing succeeding administrations to override them.

National legislation in the form of the ENIPAS Act gives permanent protection, and ensures the protected areas receive an annual budget to fund their conservation.

It is the highest form of protection for an area in the country. It automatically excludes such areas from activities like mining, logging, poaching, and fishing.

The proposed law is an amendment to and strengthening of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992, which currently protects only 13 areas. The ENIPAS Act adds 97 to this number, bringing the total number of areas protected by law to 110.

Some notable areas included in the 97 are Taal Volcano Protected Landscape in Batangas, Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Mindanao’s Agusan Basin, and the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument in Bohol.

Management plan

The ENIPAS Act also mandates the creation of a Protected Area Management Plan for each of the 97 areas to lay out a strategy on how best to conserve them.

The plan will be executed by a Protected Area Management Board composed of local government units, environment officials, indigenous peoples representatives, academe, and civil society.

Such plans are already at work in famous legislated protected areas like the Mount Pulag Natural Park and the Mount Apo Natural Park.

“We are a step closer to the finish line. Through this measure local communities and stakeholders will be able to do more to participate in the management and protection of our forests, oceans, flora, fauna and the indigenous peoples that reside in these sanctuaries,” said Legarda in a press release on Wednesday, July 29.

The measure will not only protect landscapes and seascapes, but also the threatened species that have made the areas their home.

For instance, Mount Iglit-Baco Natural Park, part of the 97, is the habitat of 405 tamaraws, a critically-endangered species only found in Mindoro.

The ball is now in the House of Representatives’ court to pass their version of the bill.

Source: Rappler