July 9, 2021

A measure to protect mangroves faces opposition in a House committee.

At the committee level in the House of Representatives, stronger measures for the preservation and protection of mangrove forests were defeated.

The Committee on Natural Resources, headed by Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, adopted the replacement bill to House Bills (HBs) 1686, 5442, and 4052, or the proposed National Mangrove Forests Protection and Preservation Act, in a virtual hearing on Wednesday.

The law proposes the creation of special mangrove forest reserve zones.

It also establishes the National Council for the Preservation of Mangrove Forests, which will create and execute a comprehensive plan for mangrove forest preservation, reforestation, afforestation, and sustainable development.

Mangrove forests, according to Lawrence Fortun of Agusan del Norte, author of HB 4052, offer unique homes for numerous species and are among the most productive ecosystems.

“Mangroves protect areas from flooding and erosion, making them an excellent disaster risk reduction strategy,” Fortun added.

He referenced a 2017 World Bank research that found that the loss of mangroves between 1950 and 2010 resulted in floods, affecting about 267,000 people annually, based on the Philippines’ current population.

The Philippines, according to Fortun, is one of the world’s 15 most mangrove-rich nations, with at least 50 percent of the roughly 65 species present.

“More than half a million hectares of mangrove forest were believed to exist in the Philippines. However, as early as the year 2000, forest cover has decreased by 250,000 hectares, a significant decrease “he said

The committee also gave its approval to a combined version of House Bills 3460 and 8925, which aims to codify the national wetlands protection policy.

The law aims to put in place measures for the protection and responsible use of the country’s wetlands and resources, in accordance with principles such as sustainable development, food security, biodiversity conservation, and disaster risk reduction and management, among others.

One of the writers of HB 3460, AMIN Party-list Representative Amihilda Sangcopan, stated the policy includes all kinds of wetlands in the nation, including inland, coastal, marine, and man-made wetlands.

“Protecting our wetlands and environment is not only essential, but also crucial, particularly in these times when clean, drinkable water is so scarce. Wetlands are a source of livelihood and food, as well as a habitat for wildlife. Wetlands are our main supplies of freshwater, flood and drought buffers, and nitrogen and chemical recyclers,” she said.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in collaboration with other government agencies and sectors, will develop a National Wetland Conservation Program and Action Plan tasked with conducting assessments, rehabilitation, protection, promotion, and development of the country’s wetlands through research and knowledge management.

Conservation and smart use of wetlands must be integrated and mainstreamed into all government agencies, offices, and local government units (LGUs) policies, rules and regulations, programs, projects, and development planning procedures.

They must also consult closely with the DENR and impacted LGUs in the formulation and execution of their wetlands-related plans, initiatives, and projects.

“Our wetlands, like the lungs of the Earth, are the kidneys that regulate water and filter waste from the landscape. Sangcopan said, “It is only fair that we take care of our environment in the same manner that it takes care of us.”

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