House panel okays bill declaring 13 sites as protected areas


    THE House committee on natural resources has approved six bills declaring additional 13 sites in eight provinces as protected areas that are closed to commercial and large-scale exploitation.

    The 13 will be added to a long list of watersheds, hills, mountains, parks, forest lands, and natural landscapes declared protected under Republic Act No. 11038, or the Expanded National Integrated Areas System (ENIPAS) Act of 2018,

    “We have to protect, regrow and preserve them for the benefit, enjoyment and appreciation of future generations of Filipinos. For instance, watersheds, hills and mountains are among our primary sources of water,” said Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., panel chair.

    Barzaga said most of these areas, which cover a combined area of 332,456 hectares, have been subjected to commercial use for decades and are now overexploited.

    The new areas proposed to be added to the ENIPAS list include Mt. Arayat in the town of Arayat in Pampanga.

    Deputy speaker and Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales Jr. of Pampanga’s third district, which covers Arayat, said the mountain “is currently facing environmental challenges like illegal logging.”

    “If no action is taken, it is only a matter of time before Arayat degrades into an unrecoverable husk of landmass devoid of life. It could also become a natural hazard to people living within its periphery,” he said.

    The 12 other additional protected areas are nine watersheds in Mindoro Occidental and Mindoro Oriental, a group of small islands in the town of Carles in Iloilo, the Tugbo watershed in the city of Masbate and the town of Mobo in Masbate, the Hinakpan mystical hills in Guihulangan, Negros Oriental; and the Tirad Pass landscape in Gregorio del Pilar in Quirino and the towns of Sigay, Cervantes and Suyo in Ilocos Sur.

    The six bills have common provisions. If declared protected, the areas will be under the supervision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).