President Duterte has signed a landmark law declaring 94 more areas under government protection and management and imposing heavy penalties on violators.
Republic Act No. 11038, also known as the “Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018,” mobilizes government resources to conserve and protect these ecologically rich and unique areas within the classification of a national park.
“It is hereby recognized that these areas, although distinct in features, possess ecological values that may be incorporated into a holistic plan to conserve and protect our natural heritage,” the law said. “The use and enjoyment of these protected areas must be consistent with the principles of biological diversity and sustainable development,” it added.
Among the huge new protected areas are Tañon Strait in Cebu and Negros Islands (534,589.05 hectares), Ticao-Burias Pass in Albay, Masbate, and Sorsogon (414,244 hectares), Samar Island Natural Park in Samar (335,105.57 hectares), Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte (283,974.77 hectares), Turtle Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Tawi-Tawi (242,958.29 hectares), and Sarangani Bay in General Santos City (210,887.69 hectares).
Other protected areas are the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City, Taal Volcano in Batangas and Cavite, Chocolate Hills Natural Monument and Panglao Island Protected Seascape in Bohol, Mount Mayon Natural Park in Albay, Bulusan Volcano Natural Park in Sorsogon, and Hinulugang Taktak in Antipolo City, Rizal.
One-hundred thirteen protected areas have earlier been declared through presidential proclamations but only 13 are supported by legislation under the NIPAS.
The NIPAS will be placed under the control and supervision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources through the Biodiversity Management Bureau.
A Protected Area Management Board will also be created for each of the protected area to approve and oversee its management plan. The board, which includes representatives from the DENR, Congress, local government, and private sector, will also allocate funds for the management plan and set fees and charges, among others. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)