The Senate has approved on third and final reading an Omnibus Bill which sought to expand the number of protected areas across the country, including the Zamboanga City Pasonanca Watershed, to conserve and protect their rich biodiversity.
Zamboanga City Second District Congresswoman Lilia Macrohon-Nuño, who authored House Bill 4506, also known as the Pasonanca Natural Park Act, thanked Senate President Frank Drilon and Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, who sponsored Senate Bill No. 2712, for the speedy passage of the measure in the Senate.
Drilon said the measure would boost existing government conservation efforts, “which seeks to preserve the Philippines’ delicate status, prestige, and privilege as one of the of the most mega-diverse countries in the planet.”
Legarda said the bill known as the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2015 (ENIPAS) would strengthen conservation of 97 protected areas in the country.
At present, there are 113 areas in the country declared as protected areas. However, only 13 have proceeded to be legislated as such under Republic Act No. 7586, otherwise known as the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS Act). As such, 23 years have passed since the passage of the NIPAS in June 1, 1992.
“After a long wait, we will soon have a law that will declare the Pasonanca area as a natural park,” Nuño said, noting that it was her predecessor former Rep. Erico Fabian who first introduced the bill in the House.
Once signed into law by President Aquino, Nuño said the reconciled version of her House Bill and the Senate Omnibus Bill would convert the 12,000-hectare Pasonanca Watershed into a Pasonanca Natural Park.
It would then be maintained for conservation purposes and would be developed for scientific, educational and recreational use, Nuño added.
Nuño explained the Pasonanca Natural Park will be used to educate the public on the importance of conservation and the protection of its biodiversity.
According to her, the Pasonanca watershed is home to diverse species of fauna, including the endangered species of Philippine raptor, notably the Philippine eagle.
Likewise, she said flora was abundant in the area and widely distributed in the different types of ecosystems.
“Considering the unique biological resources that exist in the area, we want to ensure that these are protected and conserved for future generations, including the people and the communities residing therein as well as their way of life,” said Nuño.
“The park administrators will draw a 10-year management plant that will include ecotourism, habitat and wildlife management, enforcement of laws within the park, fire prevention, pest control, among others,” she said.
Environmental and Natural Resources data show that the Philippines is host to two-thirds of the world’s biodiversity and about 70 percent to 80 percent of the world’s plant and animal species. It ranks fifth in countries with the most number of plant species, fourth in bird endemism, fifth in mammal endemism and is home to five percent of the world’s flora.