HB 1803 – An Act Amending RA 8550 (Mandating Coastal Municipalities to establish MPAs, Explanatory Note)

FOURTEENTH CONGRESS )
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES )
FIRST REGULAR SESSION )


HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
House Bill No. 1803

 

Introduced by Representative Lorenzo R. Tañada III

 

EXPLANATORY NOTE

The Philippine archipelago of 300,000 km2 includes over 7,000 islands, spreads over 1,650 kilometers of ocean from north to south and 1,000 km from east to west. The total coral reef area stretches at 30,000 to 44,000 km2 scattered along 17,500 to 36, 829 km of coastline.

Several studies have pinpointed the area of the Philippines through eastern Indonesia and around Papua New Guinea to the Coral Sea as part of the world’s ocean with the most diverse coral reef species. The Indo-Malay-Philippine archipelago is host to the richest marine biodiversity where there are at least 3-5 times more species compared to that of the Caribbean, Tahiti and Hawaii. Moreover, analysis of distribution data for almost 3,000 species pinpoints the peak of biodiversity in Philippine waters.

But with the abundance of our resources comes the threats to their decline. Several developments threaten our marine ecosystem. These are: (1) siltation due to deforestation and bad agricultural practices; (2) coastal land development; (3) agricultural fertilizer runoff and sewage; (4) industrial pollutants; (5) destructive fishing methods; (6) overfishing and gleaning; and, (7) other extractive activities such as aquarium fishing, mariculture, coral extraction, etc.

These development strategies have caused the depletion of our marine resources at a very disturbing rate. Currently, the level of fishing in our country is 30% higher than the capability of the resources to reproduce. Our harvest is way beyond the capacity of the fishery sector to regenerate. This has affected a great number of the population who depend on the sea as their main source of income. This is particularly burdensome to the municipal fishers—the decline in the volume of fisheries available means lesser fish to take home for their family’s consumption. This also reduces their income with the decline in their catch.

While our marine resources continue to decline, our population, on the other hand, continues to grow at a pace faster than our Southeast Asian neighbors. Several studies have predicted that if our population growth persists at the current rate, only 10kg of fisheries capture would be available per capita consumption by 2010. Therefore, managing our critical marine resources is imperative.

The Local Government Code of 1991, the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act and the Fisheries Code of 1998 already provide for the establishment of community-based marine protected areas by granting the administration of the municipal waters to the local governments. However, there still is a great disproportion in the number of established marine-protected areas (439 as of 2000) and the number of coastal municipalities in the country (915 based on the latest NAMRIA survey). Thus, there is still a vast range of opportunities in establishing marine-protected areas.

While indeed the Local Government Code of 1991 grants more autonomy to local government units in managing local resources, this is perhaps one of those instances where national interest—food security, ecological sustainability and guarantee of livelihood for the small and marginalized fisherfolk—must be placed above immediate local needs.

This bill mandates every coastal municipality to establish, maintain and manage marine protected areas (MPAs) in at least 15% of their municipal waters, while preserving those MPAs which were previously set up. By making it mandatory, we send a strong signal of urgency to preserve our marine resources and give it some breathing spell, not just for the sake of the livelihood of small fisherfolks but more importantly, to ensure that there will be environmental sustainability for future generations to come.

In view of the foregoing, early approval of this bill is earnestly sought.

 

LORENZO R. TAÑADA III
Representative,
4th District,
Quezon Province

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