MANILA, Philippines—The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a measure establishing marine protected areas (MPAs) and preserving existing ones in all coastal towns and cities nationwide
Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, principal author of House Bill 57, said the bill’s passage was timely as the government intensified its crackdown on marine poachers, especially those engaged in the smuggling of corals.
“I believe it will minimize poaching in areas close to the coastal municipalities,” Tañada told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “The bill will not only protect the corals but ensure the habitat of our fishes.”
The bill covers an area of at least 10 hectares at the minimum, and allows a bigger coastal municipality to cover a wider area. Tañada said that one of the key provisions of the bill was the inclusion of fishery reservations, reserves, refuges and sanctuaries as well as a mangrove swamp reservation in the marine protected areas.
To be known as the “Marine and Coastal Resources Protection Act of 2011,” the measure provides the establishment, maintenance and management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in all coastal areas and ensures the participation of the community through a management scheme that accommodates the all stakeholders.
The fund for the establishment of MPAs shall come from the budget of local government units (LGUs) while the sustainable management side shall also be funded by the regular budget of the LGUs, grants, donations and operations income of MPAs.
All coastal local government units, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Councils (FARMCs), the concerned sectors and civil society shall identify, establish and manage the MPAs.
Tañada said that local executives and members of the Sanggunian who would fail to establish an MPA in their areas could be held liable under Republic Act 3019 also known as the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act” as well as Republic Act 6317, otherwise known as the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.”
“It is the declared policy of the state to ensure the protection and preservation of the country’s marine resources even as it promotes the development of a robust fisheries sector,” Tañada stressed.
Co-authors of the bill included Representatives Benhur Salimbangon (4th District, Cebu), Pedro Acharon, Jr. (1st District South Cotabato and General Santos City), Deogracias Ramos, Jr. (2nd District, Sorsogon), Tupay Loong (1st District, Sulu), Irvin Alcala (2nd District, Quezon) and Pastor Alcover, Jr. (Party-list, ANAD).