Press Release
February 2, 2021

On World Wetlands Day 2021... Villar Files Wetland Conservation Bill

Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, is seeking for more protection for wetlands in Senate Bill No. 2036 or the "National Wetlands Conservation Act' that she filed on Tuesday (February 2), which is marked as 'World Wetlands Day'. This year's theme is "Wetlands and Water"

It marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. The Philippines is a Contracting Party in the only international treaty focused on the wise use and conservation of wetlands. As a Contracting Party, the Philippines is committed to adopt and implement laws, policies and plans to promote the wise use of wetlands.

"Wetland protection may have been included in a number of environmental law, but until now, there is still no single Philippine legislation that deals specifically on wetlands. Given the wetlands' importance, there is a need for a concise policy statement on wetlands to be adopted at the national level," said Villar.

In the Philippines, there are seven (7) wetlands that have been so far declared as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. These: (1) Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, which constitute 5,800 hectares and found in Cebu [declared as Ramsar Site (RS) No. 656 on 01 July 1994]; (2) Naujan Lake National Park, which constitute 14,568 ha. and found in Oriental Mindoro [declared as RS No. 1008 on 12 November 1999]; (3) Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, which constitute 14,836 ha and found in Agusan del Sur [declared as RS No. 1009 on 12 November 1999]; (4) Tubbataha Reefs Natural, which constitute 96,828 hectares and found in Sulu Sea [declared as RS No. 1010 on 12 November 1999]; (5) Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which constitute 22,202 ha. and found in Palawan [declared as RS No. 2084 on 30 June 2012]; (6) Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (also known as the Las Piñas - Parañaque Wetland Park), which constitute 181.63 ha. and found in Las Piñas City and Parañaque City in Metro Manila [declared as RS No. 2124 on 15 March 2013]; and (7) Negros Occidental Coastal Wetlands Conservation Area, which constitute 89, 607.8 ha. and found in Negros Occidental [declared as RS No. 2,271 on 20 October 2016].

Senate Bill 2036 "seeks to guide all concerned national government agencies and local government units in adjusting their sectorial or local policies, plans and programs to be consistent with wetland conservation and wise use".

"Some LGUs have made efforts to protect and conserve the wetlands in their areas. But the efforts should be on a national scale and all-encompassing, to cover all the wetlands, even those not in the Ramsar list and lesser known ones," added Villar.

Villar's bill aims to enhance current efforts to raise awareness on the importance of wetlands as the "cradle of biodiversity". According to Villar, the role of wetlands cannot be taken for granted, but jnstead promoted. And the approval of her proposed bill will ensure the protection, conservation and wise use of all wetlands for the present and future generations.

Wetlands provide a wide range of ecosystem services that is vital for human survival such as providing critical food supplies including rice and fish, fresh water, fiber, and fuel. They also serve as the habitat of threatened species of Philippine flora and fauna and harbors biodiversity that is vital in sustaining life and sustainable development. Wetlands also supply and regulate water and act as natural safeguards against disasters thus protecting vulnerable communities to devastating effects of floods, droughts, and storm surges. Healthy and well-managed wetlands increase resilience to climate change and extreme weather events.

Villar has been behind the continued protection of Las Piñas - Parañaque Wetland Park). It has earlier been saved from the threat of reclamation. It is now thriving and is considered as the "last remaining natural bastion in Metro Manila" with mangroves forest, native trees and bird sanctuary. There is a Wetland Center, which Villar says will serve as a venue to educate the general public on the value of wetlands in the environment and in people's lives.

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