Cebu News

Oceana calls for public to back E-NIPAS passage

Kristine B. Quintas/FPL - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - After the House of Representatives failed to pass the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas (E-NIPAS) bill on second reading, an international marine conservation organization is calling on the public and government officials to support and sign an online petition to urge Congress for its passage.

 Oceana Philippines, in its Facebook page, appealed to the public to “pressure” legislators to back the approval of the proposed measure.

 “…But it is not dead so please help us pressure your representatives in the house by signing, sharing and posting this petition!” read its post.

 The organization underscored that protected areas deserve the highest protection to preserve the ecological integrity of the country’s national treasures.

 In an online petition on social action platform Change.org, environment groups claim that the bill is being blocked in Congress, citing intense backdoor lobbying and economic interests of government officials.

As of yesterday, the petition garnered at least 1,293 supporters, nearing its 1,500 target.

“The Committee on Rules must show their independence from the influence of certain interests and they must not hold the rest of the country’s protected areas hostage,” the petition said.

“We should pass the E-NIPAS law so that our Protected Areas (PAs) can get the full benefit of the protection under the law! The law will enhance conservation efforts of our unique and threatened species of plants and animals and their habitat,” it added.

 While the Senate version of the E-NIPAS was passed in July 2015, the counterpart measure at the House was stalled for six months. It was scheduled for second reading on January 1, but the House of Representatives allegedly blocked it after Congress adjourned its session to prevent veto override on the Social Security System pension hike.

 House leaders moved to adjourn the legislative session until May. The organization is expected to lobby anew the measure in May.

Beyond conservation efforts, the bill would set the boun-daries for protected areas, making it easier to police violators of the law, and ensure that charges will not be easily dismissed in court. Senator Loren Legarda authored the Senate version of the E-NIPAS bill.

 The E-NIPAS bill proposes amendments to the 23-year-old NIPAS Act which will extend the protection of our key biodiversity areas through stronger legislation. The bill widens the coverage of protected areas, adding 96 more to the existing 13 legisla-ted national parks.

 Without the law, it is believed that protected areas remain vulnerable to destructive exploitation such as mining. (FREEMAN)

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