Congress is yet to find a middle ground on the pending Expanded-National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) bill that could protect more areas but threaten Palawan communities in the process.
In an interview, Rep. Franz Alvarez of Palawan contested the allegations of Rep. Douglas Hagedorn that he and his uncle, Governor Jose Alvarez of Palawan, are after the removal of four of Palawan’s natural resources—El Nido Managed Resource Protected Area, Malampaya Sound Protected Landscape and Seascape, Mount Mantalinhangan Protected Landscape and the Rasa Island Wildlife Sanctuary—from the protected areas under the pending E-NIPAS bill.
The House failed to approve the E-NIPAS measure on Wednesday night to give way to the 90-day campaign period for the May polls.
Hagedorn appealed to his colleagues, saying, “please stand up and fight with me on this issue.”
“That is not true. Under this E-Nipas, everything will be included in my District of El Nido, including the barangay. I have 33,000 constituents there. You can’t make it a national park because a national park should be uninhabited,” Alvarez told The Manila Times in a phone interview.
“Before you can make it a national park, there should be a description on the appropriation of land for protected areas. You have to separate the barangay inhabited by people. If we go on with this [present proposal without removing the four abovementioned areas], what would happen to the residents? The LGUs [local government units]? Commerce and employment? Those tilling their lands?,” he added.
Alvarez then clarified that he is not opposed to E-NIPAS and will be filing a separate bill that will put the El Nido Managed Resource Protected Area and the Malampaya Sound Protected Landscape and Seascape under the protected areas.
The separate bill, he added, is similar to the measure that made the Tubbataha Reef—a marine and bird sanctuary—a protected area.
The Tubbataha Reef is also a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
“Being a district representative, myself and the people here know better what should be included in the national park as compared with the Senate version. We know how to do it,” Alvarez said.