institution, community raise concerns over DENR’s lift of suspension
on special use in protected areas
May 7, 2018
QUEZON CITY – The
Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), a think-do
institution focused on issues pertaining to the integrity of
ecosystems, questioned the DENR’s recent lifting of the suspension
on the issuance of Special Use Agreements in Protected Areas (SAPAs).
SAPAs are binding
instruments that allow individuals or groups to access and use
protected areas to supposedly reduce poverty incidence and earn
revenues for the management of protected areas. The DENR
indefinitely suspended the issuance of SAPAs on 2011.
“The reasons for reopening
protected areas to special use are unclear. It is also uncertain
whether previous issues surrounding SAPAs are addressed in the
additional rules. Is the community given priority employment? Are
there now benefit sharing schemes with the community? Are there
stricter standards for applicants to ensure that they are indeed
stakeholders of the protected areas and not just big companies
coming in to earn profit?” CEED Legal and Policy Officer, Atty.
Avril De Torres said.
According to CEED
Executive Director Gerry Arances, the need to protect our
environment is a key element of adaptation to climate change. “In
this age of climate change, we should know that the conservation and
protection of our ecology generates more benefits than its
extraction and utilization. The development fees that may be earned
from the use of protected areas are negligible compared to a healthy
environment’s protection from disasters, promotion of biodiversity,
and resiliency from climate change impacts.”
“Being consistently in the
top 10 most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change,
the ability of our country’s ecosystems to deliver essential
services is already under stress. Regardless of the profits that may
be generated from SAPAs, we shouldn’t subject our last frontiers to
further stress by allowing special use,” De Torres added.
Concerned Citizens of Sta
Cruz, Zambales Chairperson Doctor Ben Molino strongly objected to
the issuance of SAPAs, “even without special use agreements, the
protected areas in Zambales are already in peril from existing coal
plants and destructive mining operations. We cannot and should not
allow further activities that would lead to further destruction of
our lands, seas, and bays.”
“This measure does not
only open protected areas to use, it could also potentially open a
floodgate for more ecological destruction,” Arances added.