All 215 House Members present during the voting thumbed up HB 8145 or the proposed “Marine and Coastal Resources Protection Act” which is principally authored by Rep. Lawrence Lemuel Fortun (1st District, Agusan del Norte).
The bill declares that the State recognizes the primacy of the citizenry as users and beneficiaries of the country’s resources. As such, each community is acknowledged as a crucial partner in the effort to conserve and manage the country’s natural marine resources.
Moreover, to preserve biological diversity, the coastal community is encouraged to formulate its own marine conservation program, based on a coastal resource management plan tailored to the ecological conditions of a particular marine environment.
The bill “refers to Marine Protected Area (MPA) as a “defined area of the sea established and set aside by law, administrative regulation, or any other effective means, in order to conserve and protect a part of or the entire enclosed environment, through the setting up of management guidelines.”
An MPA may take the following forms, any one or a combination thereof: 1) marine reserve which refers to an area where access and uses, whether extractive or non-extractive, are regulated or controlled for specific uses or purposes, including a marine sanctuary, which may be located within its boundaries; 2) marine park which refers to a type of marine reserve where conservation-oriented recreation, education, and research are emphasized; and 3) marine sanctuary which refers to a defined area established and set aside exclusively to protect habitats and species by prohibiting extractive uses and strictly regulating non-extractive uses.
Within one year from the effectivity of the Act, all coastal municipalities and cities shall establish at least one MPA within municipal waters, subject to existing guidelines and the prerequisite of consultation with the local community.
The MPA shall have a minimum total area of 10 hectares unless the total area of the municipal waters is 15 hectares or less, in which case, the MPA shall comprise 15 percent of the municipal waters.
The total area to be protected need not be contiguous and may be designated in such a manner as may be deemed appropriate, so long as it fulfills the ultimate purpose of conservation. Moreover, the MPA shall be established based on an integrated community-based conservation program and coastal resource management plan.
Where possible, an inter-tidal area shall be reserved for the establishment of a Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserve as part of an MPA.
Where the municipalities border each other in a way that their respective coastlines form a contiguous body, the concerned Local Government Unit (LGU) may jointly establish and administer MPA Networks as to reach the optimum size and arrangement of a larger-zoned MPA and to raise the effectiveness and efficiency of its management.
The concerned LGU, along with members of the community and civil society, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (FARMCs), and private sector, shall be responsible for the designation, establishment, and management of an MPA within municipal waters, based on co-management scheme that accommodates the interests of all the stakeholders involved.
It shall be unlawful for any person to willfully and knowingly exploit, damage or destroy an MPA or any portion of it. Violators shall be meted with fines and penalties as provided for in the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992, as amended, Republic Act No. 8550 (Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998), RA No. 9147 (Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act), and other related laws, rules and regulations.
If a coastal LGU fails to establish an MPA as herein provided, the appropriate administrative, civil, or criminal action prescribed under existing laws may be filed against the Mayor, the Vice Mayor, and the members of the Sanggunian.
Lastly, the initial fund for the MPA establishment shall be provided by the concerned LGU. Funds for the sustainable management of the MPA shall be included in the regular budget of the LGU and may be augmented by funds provided by the provincial government, grants, donations, and income generated from the MPA operations.