Press Release
May 22, 2017

Senate passes expanded NIPAS bill on 3rd reading

The Senate today passed on third and final reading a bill that would bring 92 new areas, including six internationally-recognized natural sites, under the protection and management of the country's landmark National Integrated and Protected Areas System Act.

Senate Bill No. 1444, or the "Expanded NIPAS Act of 2017," was authored by Senators Cynthia Villar, Loren Legarda, Chiz Escudero, Nancy Binay, Migz Zubiri, and Joel Villanueva, and was approved with 22 affirmative votes, zero negative vote, and zero abstention.

According to Villar, sponsor of SBN 1444 and chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, the bill sought to amend Republic Act 7586 or the NIPAS Act of 1992, in order "to include more areas and to ensure greater protection for all protected areas."

She explained that the NIPAS Act, which was first enacted in 1992 as a "mechanism to conserve the biodiversity in the Philippines," provides the legal framework for the establishment and management of protected areas in the country.

"The Philippines' rich biodiversity is a source of pride and joy for all of us Filipinos. We actively protect and strongly defend the breadth and depth of our territories to ensure that the future generation of Filipinos will still have the opportunity to take pride and find joy in our country's rich biodiversity," she said.

Villar noted that among the 92 new protected areas, six sites were internationally recognized and classified as ASEAN Heritage Sites: Mount Timpoong-Hibok-Hibok and Mount Iglit-Baco; Malaysia-Philippines Heritage Parks, Turtles Islands Heritage Protected Area; and Ramsar Sites Agusan Marsh, Olango Island and the Las Pinas Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA).

She said that among the key provisions of the bill were the creation of 'Protected Area Management Office' for each of the protected areas, and the rationalization of the existing Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB), which will now include local government officials, indigenous peoples, non-government organizations, academic institutions and women.

The bill also upheld the recognition of Indigenous Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs), "apart from merely respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their ancestral lands within protected areas." Villar added that the bill allowed the development of renewable energy resources of protected areas, as long as these are "subject to adoption of reduced impact technologies, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and such development is not detrimental to ecosystem functions and biodiversity."

She said that the bill was meant to address the worsening cases of habitat loss, destruction and deterioration of many protected areas in the country. "Time has always been of great essence when it comes to the preservation and protection of our country's biodiversity. But it is a sad fact that many areas in our megadiverse country remain under-protected. In fact, the protection of some supposedly protected areas remain inadequate," Villar said.

She said that the Philippines has been known as one of the 35 world's biodiversity hotspots or "regions containing exceptional concentrations of plant endemism, but experiencing high rates of habitat loss."

"As the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity pointed out, the continued deterioration of natural resources and ecosystems, as well as the extinction of numerous animal and plant species pose a threat to sustainable development. The clock is fast ticking away," Villar concluded.

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