MARIA AURORA, Aurora—The national government has set aside P9 million for the development of eco-tourism facilities at the 5,000-hectare Aurora Memorial National Park in this town.
Arturo Salazar, assistant regional director for technical services of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the funding will be used to set up comfort rooms, an information center and a hiking area in the park, 40,000 hectares of which are in this province, with the rest in Nueva Ecija.
Salazar said next year, they are eyeing funding for the Dinadiawan River Protected Landscape in Dipaculao, Aurora, and the Pantabangan-Carranglan Watershed Forest Reserve in Nueva Ecija.
Raizza Lico, chief of the protected areas management and biodiversity conservation section of the DENR in Region 3, said other protected areas in the region that received funding are the Bataan National Park (P5 million), the Biak-na-Bato National Park in Bulacan (P13 million), the Minalungao National Park in Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija (P13 million) and the Mt. Arayat National Park in Pampanga (P5 million).
The Aurora Memorial park is considered a protected area apart from the 6,471.08-hectare Amro River Protected Landscape in the town of Casiguran, the 3,371.332-hectare DRPL in Dipaculao town and the 2,266.47-hectare Simbahan-Talagas Protected Landscapes and the 3,526.29-hectare Talaytay Protected Landscapes, both in Dinalungan.
The conversion of the four parks into protected areas was contained in Senate Bill 1901 introduced by Sen. Loren Legarda. Protected areas refer to identified portions of land and water set aside because of their unique physical and biological significance, which managed to enhance biological diversity and protected against destructive human exploitation and included as a component of the NIPAS.
Aurora, Dinadiawan, Simbahan-Talagas and Talaytay are covered by Presidential Proclamations 267, 274, 278 and 283, respectively, all issued on April 23, 2000 by then-President Joseph Estrada.
Legarda said the four parks, just like other protected areas, have unique features that support agriculture, water supply and other economic activities.
“Establishing protected areas is not only an environmental issue but also a gut issue. It is crucial to food security, water security and poverty alleviation, because these areas are rich sources of basic resources,” she said.
The lawmaker added that many protected areas are vital sources of freshwater, which is crucial in agriculture. She cited a study of the International Union for Conservation of Nature showing that agriculture uses as much as 50 percent of freshwater in many countries and up to 90 percent in developing countries.
Article 12, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution stipulates that Congress shall determine by law the specific limits of forestlands and national parks, marking clearly their boundaries on the ground. It was toward this end when Republic Act 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 was enacted, establishing a system of protected areas within the classification of national parks as provided for in the Constitution.