MANILA – “Today, National Heroes Day, let us all be heroes for the future and our children, and preserve our environment,” Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said in news release Monday, as he seeks the enactment of his bill on national mangrove forest protection and preservation.
“Protektado ang mga bakawan sa lahat ng bahagi ng Pilipinas kung itong panukala ay batas na (All mangrove forests would be protected when this bill becomes law),” he said, referring to his Senate Bill 239.
“Ang mga bakawan ay isa sa mga pinaka-underrated sa ating likas-yaman. Pinagmumulan ito ng mga kahoy at isda at iba pang yamang-dagat. Nakakatulong din ito sa pagligtas sa atin tuwing may tsunami at storm surges (Mangroves are one of our most underrated natural resources. It provides forest products and sustains the fisheries industry. It also reduces the impact of tsunami waves, erosion, and storm surges),” Pangilinan said.
SB 239 seeks to establish Mangrove Reservation Areas, or portions of land in all coastal areas in each municipality allotted solely for the preservation, protection, afforestation, and sustainable management of mangrove forests.
The bill also seeks to penalize violators of the law, or those who cut, uproot, or destroy any mangrove tree; dump waste; construct or reclaim in mangrove reservation areas; and illegally fish, among others.
“Bagamat ang daming nagagawa ng bakawan, sinisira ito, meron pang overharvesting, overfishing at polusyon. Dapat nating kilalanin ang kahalagahan ng mga bakawan. Dahil mga bakawan ang maaaring huling panangga natin sa hagupit ng kalikasan (Despite its many benefits, mangrove forests face increasing deforestation from clearing, as well as overharvesting, overfishing, and pollution. We must recognize the importance of mangroves. Because mangroves may be our last shield against the might of nature),” Pangilinan said.
Over the last 100 years, the Philippines has already lost half its mangroves, data from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) shows, with mangrove forests worldwide destroyed three to five times faster than the average rate of deforestation.
And only 100,000 hectares of 500,000 hectares of Philippine mangrove remain, according to the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity.
Pangilinan’s proposed law seeks to preserve and protect the country’s mangrove forests by setting the national policy and enforcing this policy through the establishment of national and local councils for mangrove forests preservation.
“Bagama’t di natin kailangang magpunit ng cedula tulad ng mga bayani ng Pugad Lawin, pwede pa rin tayong maging bayani para sa kinabukasan at para sa ating mga anak kung aalagaan lang natin ang ating kalikasan (While we don’t need to tear up any tax certificate like the heroes of Pugad Lawin, we can still be heroes for the future and our children if only we care for our environment),” Pangilinan said.
For the 18th Congress, Pangilinan has filed at least 14 agriculture- and environment-related bills. Among them are: Senate Bills 31 on Coco Levy Trust Fund, 40 on Single-use Plastic Regulation, and 256 on Agricultural Land Conversion Ban.