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Protected areas not forestland


There is still a common notion that protected areas, like the Northern Negros Natural Park and the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park in Negros Island, are under the classification of forestland or timberland, as enunciated in the antiquated Presidential Decree 705, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.

This old school of thought continues to persist even in various planning frameworks pertaining to land use management.

There are some historical accounts associated with this interpretation. For one, the PD 705, which was enacted primarily to regulate the logging industry in the country during the 70s, provides also certain measures on the management of national parks and forest reserves. It is by this reason that national park was just part and parcel of the services under the defunct Bureau of Forest Development (now the Forest Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources).

It should be noted, however, that before the passage of PD 705, we already had the National Park System Act that was introduced by the American Colonial Regime in 1932. The park system was tailored from the first national park of the world – the Yellowstone National Park in the US. Under this scheme, lands of public domain, that possess unique features and characteristics, shall be withdrawn from settlement and ownership to become inalienable. National parks are primarily intended for recreation, education and scientific purposes. One of the earlier declared national parks in the country was the then Mount Canlaon National Park (1934).

When the 1987 Philippines Constitution was ratified, the national park became one of the four major land classifications of the country. The three others are forestland, agricultural land (usually referred to as the alienable and disposable land) and mineral land. It clearly means that a national park is not just a subset of land classification under the PD 705 and, therefore, should be managed distinctively as a separate management unit of land.

It was also during the 80s when the national park system of the Philippines was under scrutiny as to its effectiveness and efficiency in nature conservation and protection. Various studies found out that most, if not all, of our national parks and other reserves were not properly managed by the purposes of which they were declared. Some portions of most, if not all, of the declared national parks were already converted into other purposes, such as settlement and agriculture. During that time, concerns on the depleting natural resources were also mounting and the advocacy on biological diversity conservation was gaining ground.

The landmark legislation on nature conservation in the Philippines came with the passage of the National Integrated Protected Areas System in 1992 that superseded all other policies on national parks and related rules and regulations. This development further affirmed the constitutional provision on national park, since all prior declared national parks and other reserves were included as initial components of the system and thereby declared as protected areas. On the other hand, new proclaimed protected areas are likewise classified as national parks under the land classification of the Constitution.*

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