House OKs bill expanding biodiversity protected areas
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - February 8, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading Monday night a measure that seeks to expand the coverage of protected areas of biodiversity – aimed at conserving further the country’s vast natural resources and forests. 

House Bill 6772 (Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System or ENIPAS), authored by Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato, will increase by 94 the number of Protected Areas (PAs) that are backed by legislation in the country.  

She said ENIPAS is a big step forward in narrowing the financing gap for biodiversity protection and conservation in the Philippines. The bill will also institutionalize funding for the management of the additional PAs through the annual General Appropriations Act. 

The Sato bill also upholds and respects the rights of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) to self-determination and governance participation, especially on biodiversity conservation and protection. 

“Under this measure, there will be more prohibited acts and there will be a stiffer penalty for violators,” she said. 

The Senate version of ENIPAS, which includes 97 PAs, was approved in May 2017. With the House version’s approval, the proposed measure moves forward for deliberation by a bicameral conference committee. 

Sato is confident the bill will enjoy smooth sailing in the bicameral committee, with the urgency of protecting and conserving the country’s rich biodiversity against any form of threat that may lead to the extinction of threatened or endangered plant and animal wildlife. 

“The Philippines is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries in the world, but also one of the 35 so-called biodiversity hotspots because of the rapid rate of biodiversity loss,” the former governor said.  

“This proposed bill will help prevent species extinction and ensure that our present and future generations will continue to enjoy the benefits of having a healthy environment where biodiversity thrives under the protection of Philippine laws,” she said. 

Since 1992, 113 protected areas have been declared through presidential proclamations, but only 13 are currently backed with legislation under the National Integrated Protected Areas System.

The bill will not only increase the total number of PAs with institutional funding thru the GAA from 13 to 107, it will also expand the areas set aside for conservation with land classification as “national park” from the current 800,000 hectares to 3.5 million hectares.

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