Fishponds abandoned for at least three years will be soon converted to forest lands under recently approved House Bill (HB) 5845.
HB 5845 shortens the process of reverting unutilized fishponds to forestlands to three years from five years to spur socio-economic development in the countryside.
The measure authored by Rep. Linabelle Ruth Villarica of Bulacan amends Section 43 of Presidential Decree 705 or the Revised Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines.
“Environmental laws must be attuned to the demands of climate change as well as the socio-economic needs of the increasing number of people living in our communities. The [abandoned]fishponds could be utilized for mangrove propagation or promotion of eco-tourism activities to jumpstart the economy of communities,” Villarica said.
Under the bill, all mangrove swamps set aside for coast-protection purposes will not be subject to clear-cutting operation.
Villarica noted that strips of mangrove forest bordering numerous islands that protect the shoreline, the shoreline roads, and even coastal communities from the destructive force of the sea during strong winds and typhoons, must be kept free from artificial obstruction so that floodwater will flow unimpeded to the sea to avoid flooding or inundation of cultivated areas in the upstream.
The proposed law designates the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to prepare a set of joint guidelines to determine abandoned, undeveloped or under-utilized fishponds covered by Fishpond Lease Agreements (FLAs).
House Bill 5845 was approved on second reading last June 28 before being approved this week.