COMMENTARY: Protecting a ‘protected area’ PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 18 August 2014 12:27

BY Vicente R. Solis, Lawyer

 

Every onset of the year we almost always get the bad news from our local water district announcing water rationing throughout its service area in the city. It’s nearly an annual ritual, especially when “El Niño” blows in, which usually ignites acrid debates and ends up with finger-pointing over the manner in which our local water district operates our city’s water distribution system. I highlight the term “distribution” because invariably much of our public discourse revolves around our vintage American-pioneered water distribution system and rarely on the source of our water supply, the “Pasonanca Watershed Forest Reserve”, which keeps the water flowing in the distribution pipelines.

Come to think of it, we go through a parallel drill every summertime with the power distribution system operated by our electric cooperative (ZAMCELCO), which we endlessly flog verbally whenever market demand in the Mindanao power grid outstrips the generated capacity from NPC and the independent power producers (IPP’s), thereby resulting in involuntary local outages. But, that’s another story.

Let’s get back to water and the good news which Congresswoman Lilia Macrohon Nuño of the second legislative district brings by way of her House Bill 2629 which seeks to secure the fountainhead of our water supply by establishing the “Pasonanca Watershed Forest Reserve as a Protected Area under the Category of a Natural Park, to be known as the Pasonanca Natural Park.”

According to the congresswoman, “the park’s watershed is the source of water for domestic use by the city’s populace. Being the only remaining virgin forest, which is near and accessible to the center of population, the park faces potential threats brought about by certain pressures, i.e., increase in population and development.”

The bill, following its approval by the House of Representatives in June of this year, is now pending consideration by the Senate. With more than twenty-two months left before the present 16th Congress adjourns, it’s only a matter of time before the “Pasonanca Natural Park” bill becomes the governing law and provides protective cover over 17,000 hectares of forest land, consisting of the core area and a buffer zone, and embracing Pasonanca, Lumayang, Tolosa, Bungiao, Dulian, Baluno, Salaan, Cacao, Lunzuran, La Paz, Lapacan, and Lamisahan.

Upon its enactment into law, the park will be placed under the jurisdiction and administration of the Protected Area Management Board or PAMB, to be chaired by the regional director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), with the city mayor as vice chairman. The other members of the governing board will include the general manager of the water district, the city’s planning and development officer, a member of the city council, the chairmen of the barangays within the park, three representatives from NGO’s and community organizations, three representatives from national government agencies involved in protected area management, and three representatives from local stakeholders who can assist in the protection of the park.

For the day to day operations of the park, a Protected Area Superintendent will be appointed. He will be directly answerable to the PAMB.

In order to fully secure the area, the bill prohibits the following activities inside the Pasonanca Natural Park: (1) hunting, destroying, disturbing or mere possession of any plant or animal and any product derived therefrom without a permit from the PAMB; (2) dumping of any waste product or any form of activity detrimental to the protected area, or to the plants and animals or inhabitants therein; (3) use of any vehicle or equipment within the protected area without a permit from the PAMB; (4) mutilating, defacing or destroying objects of natural beauty or objects of interest to cultural communities; (5) damaging or leaving roads and trails in a damaged condition; (6) squatting, undertaking mineral exploration or otherwise occupying any portion of land; (7) constructing or maintaining any kind of structure, fence or enclosure, or conducting any business enterprise without a permit duly issued by the PAMB; and  (8) altering, removing, destroying or defacing boundary marks or signs.

Presently, the watershed area is under the jurisdiction and management of the DENR, as provided in Proclamation 199, issued by the late President Cory Aquino on December 17, 1987, and Proclamation 132, issued by former President Joseph Estrada on July 5, 1999, pursuant to RA 7586 or the Nipas Act of 1992.

The power from the proposed 100MW plant of IPP San Ramon Power Corporation is awaited to level the energy supply in the city and eliminate power outages in the next four years. The Pasonanca Natural Park bill authored by Congresswoman Lilia Macrohon Nuño is intended to give protective cover to our water source and assure the flow of water in the pipelines even earlier.

Both undertakings involving two basic necessities deserve our full support.

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Section 4, Article VII (The Executive Department) of the Constitution provides that, “THE PRESIDENT SHALL NOT BE ELIGIBLE FOR ANY REELECTION.” The late President Cory Aquino could have sought re-election in 1992 by having this sentence in the charter amended before her term expired. Yes, with her high popularity ratings, she could have precipitated a Constitutional amendment and won re-election. But, she did not. This abnegation of power is one of President Cory Aquino’s multiple sterling traits which defined her person and Presidency. I believe the son will carry on the legacy of the mother. (POBox 333, Z.C., solislaw@outlook.ph)