6 areas in Bicol included in Expanded NIPAS
By Juan Escandor Jr. NAGA CITY --- Unanimously approved on third and final reading on Monday (May 22), six areas in Bicol have been included in the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) which will ensure that these areas will be free from rampant human exploitation. Among the six areas out of the 96 areas included in the ENIPAs nationwide are Bicol Natural Park, Bulusan Volcano Natural Park, Catanduanes Watershed Forest Reserve, Lagonoy Natural Biotic Area, Mayon Volcano Natural Park and Mt. Isarog Natural Park. The Senate approved the bill in time for the celebration of the International Day for Biological Diversity which Sen. Loren Legarda principally authored. “I am glad that the Senate has approved this very important measure that would help ensure the sustainable use of our natural resources,” Legarda said in a statement. She explained that through the 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. “The proposed ENIPAS Law will secure the remaining protected areas in the country through strengthening access to funding and prosecution of prohibited acts. I hope the House of Representatives would also pass their version of the bill so we can move forward in our efforts to conserve our degrading ecosystems and protect our precious biodiversity,” said Legarda. Legarda explained that the measure completes the process of declaration of 92 protected areas in the country through amendments to the existing National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Law or Republic Act No. 7586. She said that the NIPAS Act established a system of protected areas within the classification of national park as provided for in the Constitution. The system consists of all areas in the Philippines proclaimed, designated or set aside by law, presidential decree, presidential proclamation or executive order as any of the following: national park, game refuge, bird and wildlife sanctuary, wilderness area, strict nature reserve, watershed, mangrove reserve, fish sanctuary, natural and historical landmark, protected and managed landscape/seascape as well as identified virgin forests before the effectivity of the NIPAS Act. Since 1992, 113 have been declared through Presidential proclamations as protected areas under the NIPAS. However, only 13 protected areas have finally proceeded to be legislated as such in the more than 20 years since the NIPAS Act was enacted. Legarda said it is imperative that the proclaimed protected areas are declared as such through Congressional fiat as required by the NIPAS Act and pursuant to the directive of the Constitution.