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Villar wants 5 more included in protected areas
Trekkers enjoy the summit of Mt. Pulag in this undated file photo. The mountain is among five biodiverse areas Sen. Cynthia Villar wants placed under government protection.
Geremy Pintolo

Villar wants 5 more included in protected areas

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 21, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Cynthia Villar has sought the inclusion of five biodiverse but threatened areas to be placed under protection of the National Integrated Protected Areas System or NIPAS law.

Villar, who chairs the Senate environment and natural resources committee, said that under the NIPAS Act, it is the policy of the state “to secure for the Filipino people of present and future generations the perpetual existence of all native plants and animals through the establishment of a comprehensive system of integrated protected areas.”

The NIPAS was established under Republic Act 7586, as amended by RA 11038 or the Expanded NIPAS Act of 2018.

There are 107 protected areas in the country that have been so declared through legislation.

Villar pointed out that the system encompasses ecologically rich, unique and biologically important areas that are habitats of threatened species of plants and animals, biographic zones and related ecosystem, whether terrestrial wetland or marine.

The Constitution mandates the state to protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature. In line with safeguarding a healthful ecology, the Constitution likewise provides that Congress shall determine the national parks, which shall be conserved and may not be increased nor diminished except by law, she said.

However, she noted that based on records and suitability assessments by the DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau, there are still numerous sites in the country that need to be placed under a “protected area” status.

Villar filed five separate bills seeking to place some areas under the NIPAS, including Senate Bill 2276 declaring a parcel of land at Naga and Kabasalan in Zamboanga Sibugay a protected landscape to be called Naga-Kabasalan Protected Landscape.

The initial assessment by Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region IX and the local government of Zamboanga Sibugay in 2006 showed that its biological, physical and cultural resources are at risk and may face severe damage if current economic destructive activities would be unabated, she said.

She also filed SB 2277 declaring two parcels of land within the Sicogon Island of Carles town in Iloilo a wildlife sanctuary to be called Sicogon Island Wildlife Sanctuary. The area’s interesting biodiversity calls for a need to declare the 282.867 hectares remaining forestland of the island a protected area.

Also filed was SB 2278 declaring a parcel of lot in Balbalan, Kalinga, a protected landscape to be called Banao Protected Landscape. Dubbed as the “green heart” of the Cordillera, the park known as the Balbasang-Babalan National Park has a rich biodiverse landscape of the Cordillera mountain region with some of the most intact pine forests with endemic flora and fauna.

SB 2279 seeks to declare a parcel of land in the municipalities of Gregorio del Pilar, Quirino, Sigay, Cervantes and Suyo, Ilocos Sur a protected landscape. The Tirad Pass National Park in Ilocos Sur is the only remaining mossy forest in the region, showcasing a rich terrestrial ecosystem.

Villar also filed SB 2280 declaring a parcel of land in Kabayan, Bokod and Buguias, all in Benguet; Tinoci, Ifugao and Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya, a protected landscape to ensure the protection of the Mt. Pulag National Park, which is the highest peak in Luzon and second highest mountain in the Philippines.

Its wildlife include threatened mammals such as the Philippine brown deer, Northern Luzon giant cloud rat and the Luzon pygmy fruit bat.

CYNTHIA VILLAR
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