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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, July 9, 2018
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with Errol A. Gatumbato
OPINIONS

The expanded NIPAS Act
(1st of four parts)

Rock & Refuge

The Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, or Republic Act 11038, was signed into law on June 22, but it was only publicly known last week.

It is now the enabling law for the establishment, disestablishment, and management of protected areas in the Philippines. Basically, the ENIPAS has two main features - it amends Republic Act 7586, or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, and declares 94 sites from various regions of the country as new protected areas.

Both the ENIPAS and NIPAS refer protected area as “identified portions of land and/or water set aside by reason of their unique physical and biological significance, managed to enhance biological diversity and protected against destructive human exploitation”.

There are now 107 PAs that have been officially established by the Congress across the nation. The Congress had individually declared 13 other PAs in the past years. All these PAs cover diverse ecosystems and habitats in both terrestrial and marine environments, some of which are freshwater ecosystems. They are now classified as national parks, as provided for in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. In effect, the boundaries of these PAs could no longer be modified and altered, except by another law, which the Congress shall pass.

Four PAs declared under the ENIPAS are located in Negros Island - the Northern Negros Natural Park in Negros Occidental, Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park and Apo Island Protected Landscape and Seascape in Negros Oriental, and Tañon Straight Protected Seascape, with boundaries shared between and among the provinces of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Cebu. The Congress had already separately proclaimed in 2001 the two others PAs in Negros - Mount Kanla-on Natural Park and the Sagay Marine Reserve.

The NIPAS Act was enacted in 1992, but since then the Congress had only declared 13 PAs prior to the passage of the ENIPAS. It was one of the reasons why the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had pushed and lobbied for the consolidated declaration of 94 PAs in just one law. Such move was also used as an opportunity to amend certain provisions of the 26-year-old NIPAS Act, which mandated the declaration by the Congress of PAs, following the issuance of their respective proclamation by the President.

The ENIPAS is sustaining the policy declaration of the NIPAS. It recognizes the critical importance of protecting and maintaining the natural, biological, and physical diversities of our environment, especially those areas with unique biological features, to sustain human life and development, as well as plants and animals. The ENIPAS affirms to secure for the Filipino people of present and future generations the perpetual existence of native plants and animals through the establishment of a comprehensive system of PAs in the country.

The ENIPAS acknowledges that the effective administration of these PAs is only possible through cooperation among national government agencies, local government units, concerned nongovernment organizations, private entities, and local communities. It further invokes that the use and enjoyment of these areas must be consistent with the principles of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

One of the features of the ENIPAS on its policy declaration is the recognition of conservation and management regimes being implemented by LGUs, local communities, and indigenous people. It is interesting to know how these mechanisms shall be carried out in the near future.

As a matter of principle, this latest legislation on PAs assured the full implementation of the law, including the mobilization of resources and provision of scientific and technical support for the conservation of biodiversity and the integrity of ecosystems, culture, and indigenous practices.

While these policy declarations are promising, how they shall be translated into reality remains a challenge in as much that even those 13 Congress-declared PAs prior to the ENIPAS are not yet fully funded and secured from anthropogenic disturbances. (To be continued)*

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