New law protects tamaraws, increases protected areas
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - July 12, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A new law that President Duterte signed will help protect the vanishing breed of endangered species tamaraw – the dwarf buffalo that can be found only in Mindoro province – and expand as well protected areas all over the country. 

Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato, author of House Bill 6772 now known as Republic Act 11038, which expands the coverage of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act, said the decree is a step in the right direction. 

“With the new law, 94 protected areas are added to the list with legislative backing, expanding the areas covered by this special law by 3.5 million hectares,” the member of the bicameral Commission on Appointments said. 

The law imposes a “stricter management regime” that will “ensure the protection of thousands of threatened plant and animal species, including those that could only be found in the Philippines.” 

One such unique species is the Philippine tamaraw, which can be found only on Mindoro island, specifically the hilly portion of Mount Iglit-Baco National Park, one of the 94 PAs covered by ENIPAS.

Sato, a former governor who is also an environmentalist, said the new law increases the number of PAs covered by legislation from 13 to 107. The law amends RA 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992.  

Previously, there were 240 protected areas and national parks, but only 13 were backed by legislation, while the rest were established by virtue of executive order or presidential proclamation.  

“ENIPAS is a big step toward improving biodiversity conservation, greener future for Filipinos,” the veteran lawmaker said, adding that this “demonstrates the country’s commitment to strengthen its protected area management.” 

The new law will also increase the funding for protection and conservation of key biodiversity areas. 

Sato urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to start crafting the law’s implementing rules and regulations to ensure its effective implementation, and immediately work with local government units to ensure the active participation of officials in policy formulation as well as crafting and implementation of programs and projects to sustainably develop these protected areas. 

Under the ENIPAS Act, stiffer fines and penalties await violators, including erring local government officials who may face perpetual disqualification from public office.

Once backed by legislation, a PA is declared off limits to destructive development activities such as quarrying and mining. Certain areas identified by the concerned protected area managers are classified as strict protection zones. 

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