A bill establishing Marine Protected Areas and ensuring the participation of communities in maintaining them has been reported out for plenary deliberations by the Committees on Aquaculture and Fisheries Resources and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.
Cebu Representative Benhur Salimbangon of the National Unity Party (NUP), who chairs the aquaculture and fisheries committee, said House Bill 5836 also aims to protect the livelihood of marginalized fisherfolk and guarantee environmental sustainability for the future generations.
Salimbangon, who authored two of the bills substituted by HB 5836, said the dangers facing the country's marine ecosystem stress the need for the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) in all coastal cities and municipalities nationwide.
Agusan del Norte Representative Lawrence Lemuel Fortun also authored a similar bill establishing MPAs in coastal cities and municipalities.
"Several developments such as climate change, siltation due to deforestation and bad agricultural practices, coastal land development, industrial pollutants, destructive fishing methods, overfishing and gleaning and other extractive activities such as aquarium fishing, mariculture and coral extraction pose greater threat on our marine ecosystem," Salimbangon said.
He said the establishment of MPAs has become even more urgent because “while our marine resources continue to decline, our population on the other hand continues to grow at a pace faster than our Southeast Asian neighbors.”
“If this persists, food security, economic sustainability and the livelihood for the small and marginalized fisherfolk will be in danger of extinction," Salimbangon added.
Under the bill, all coastal municipalities and cities shall establish at least one MPA within municipal waters to conserve and manage natural marine resources.
"The MPA shall have a minimum total area of ten hectares, unless the total area of the municipal waters is fifteen hectares or less, in which case the MPA shall comprise fifteen percent of the municipal waters," Salimbangon said.
Under the measure, all coastal local government units (LGUs), the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Councils (FARMCs), civil society and other concerned sectors are tasked to identify, establish and manage MPAs.
The bill also penalizes individuals who willfully and knowingly exploit, damage or destroy an MPA or any portion of it, as provided under existing laws.