Local communities may soon be able to strengthen their marine and coastal protection efforts as the House committee on appropriations approved a substitute bill establishing marine protected areas (MPAs) in coastal municipalities and cities nationwide.

The measure consolidated House Bills 48 and 2126 authored by Reps. Lawrence Laurel Fortun and Benhur Salimbangon, respectively.

The measure provides that an MPA includes fishery reservations, reserves, refuges, and sanctuaries and mangrove swamp reservations. An MPA may take one of these forms, or incorporate different types. It shall be established according to existing guidelines and according to the level of protection required by existing ecological conditions, as well as the socio-economic characteristics of the local community.

The substitute bill’s approval by the committee on appropriations chaired by Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles applies particularly to Section 7 of the measure which provides for the funding of the measure.

Section 7 provides that the initial fund for the establishment of the MPAs shall be provided by the concerned local government units (LGUs). Funds for the sustainable management of the MPA shall be included in the regular budget of the LGUs and may be augmented by funds provided by the provincial government, grants, donations, and income generated from the operations of the MPA.

The bill enjoins the communities to participate in the protection of MPAs through a co-management scheme which shall ensure that the interests of all stakeholders are accommodated.

The bill enjoins the communities to participate in the protection of marine protected areas through a co-management scheme.

Moreover, it aims to protect the livelihood of Filipino fisherfolk and ensure environmental sustainability of future generations.

It mandates that the form or arrangement of the MPA shall not in any way impair the rights of municipal fisherfolk to the preferential use of the marine and fishing resources, unless ecological conditions are in such an advanced state of degradation that rehabilitation must necessarily preclude allowing all extractive and human activity.

The establishment of at least one MPA in each coastal municipality or city shall serve to conserve and manage natural marine resources and ensure the preservation of existing MPAs.

The identification, establishment, and management of MPAs shall be the responsibility of coastal LGUs, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Councils (FARMCs), the concerned sectors and civil society groups.

In the event that the LGU fails to establish an MPA, the bill provides for the liability of the Mayor, Vice Mayor, and the members of the Sanggunian under existing laws.


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