The Sicogon Island Wildlife Sanctuary Act, passed during the term of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte, has now lapsed into law.
Senator Cynthia Villar filed Senate Bill 2277, now Republic Act No.119331, which declared two parcels of land in Sicogon Island in the municipality of Carles, Iloilo, as protected areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), providing for management and appropriating funds.
In her proposed Senate Bill 2277, which she authored and sponsored, Villar noted that Sicogon Island’s interesting biodiversity calls for a need to declare a protected area its remaining 282.867 hectares of forestland.
The island Is characterized by moderately rolling terrain with the highest elevation of about 300 meters above sea level. It has twelve freshwater springs which are the source of drinking and day-to-day use of residents.
“This also made it (Sicogon Island) a candidate for the West Visayan Threatened Endemic Species Reintroduction Programme which addresses the alarming conservation status of the Negros-Panay endemic species,” Villar said.
Villar, chairperson of the Senate environment and natural resources committee, said the NIPAS Act declared that it is the policy of the State “to secure for the Filipino people of present and future generations the perpetual existence of all native plants and animals through the establishment of a comprehensive system of integrated protected areas.”
The system, Villar said, shall encompass ecologically rich, unique and biologically important areas that are habitats of threatened species of plants and animals, biographic zones, and related ecosystems, whether terrestrial, wetland or marine.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution mandates the State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.
In line with safeguarding a healthful ecology, the Constitution likewise provides that Congress shall determine the national parks, which shall be conserved and may not be increased nor diminished except by law.
At present, Villar related there are protected areas in the country that have been so declared through legislation.
However, based on the records and suitability assessments by the DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau, she pointed out there are still numerous sites in the country which necessitate protected area status.