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PAMB’s decision on NNNP Last of three parts

The construction of private vacation houses in the Northern Natural Park in Negros Occidental could not be justified through the development and implementation of the management zoning, as implied by some members of its Protected Area Management Board, who voted against the recommendation to demolish such structures since they have been constructed without prior permit.

While it is true that the management zones of the protected area may include provision that allows settlement in certain areas, this is restricted only for tenured migrants under the instrument called Protected Area Community Based Resource Management Agreement.

The awarding of land tenure in the PA is not by individual, but by a group of tenured migrants, who bonded themselves as a duly registered people’s organization. These tenured migrants should show evidence of their occupancy at least five years prior to the NNNP’s designation as a PA, and they must be dependent over the site for subsistence. On the other hand, the indigenous people are entitled to claim their ancestral domains within the PA, as enshrined in the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, or Republic Act 7586, and the Indigenous People’s Right Act, or IPRA.

Therefore, the demolition of illegal structures within the PA will not in anyway affect the IPs, just like what has been presented during the last PAMB meeting when a vote was called on those structures in the NNNP.

There is also speculation that the owners of these vacation houses may apply and be entitled through another instrument known as the Special Agreement for Protected Area. However, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has suspended the implementation of the SAPA, because of varied interpretations of the agreement that may lead to the commission of acts contrary to the NIPAS Act and its implementing rules and regulations.

Moreover, the SAPA is primarily intended for the delivery of services for the general public and not for private and personal purposes. Moreover, how can you award agreements with individuals, who have committed illegal acts inside the PA?

The NIPAS Act IRR, as contained in DENR Administrative Order 2008-26, provides that a PA shall be divided into two major management zones – the strict protection zone and the multiple-use zone. Based on the initial protected area plan, the PAMB has already identified and delineated these two major zones of the NNNP.

The SPZ shall consist of natural areas with high biodiversity areas, and these are the NNNP’s remaining forests, which also serve as important habitats of assorted species of flora and fauna, many of which are threatened endemic species that are already at the brink of extinction in the wild. This zone shall further include even degraded and regenerating areas that have been designated for restoration and subsequent protection, especially so if these areas are within the habitat range of the wildlife.

Initially, the PAMB has identified the one-kilometer radius from the NNNP’s final forest line for this purpose. Based on the field evaluation of the NNNP’s TWG, some of the private vacation houses have been constructed in the designated SPZ of the PA.

The MUZ shall comprise the areas where settlement, traditional or sustainable land use, including agriculture, agro-forestry and other income-generating or livelihood activities may be allowed for as long as they are consistent with the PA management plan. This zoning scheme is aimed to accommodate the reality of occupancy over the different PAs in the country, with the end view that these occupants shall be organized to create a strong social fence. However, it is very important to note that this occupancy is not open to anyone but solely restricted for tenured migrants.

The MUZ may also constitute areas with high recreational, tourism and conservation education and awareness values, which may be developed for public services and enjoyment, and not for private interests. In most cases, the PAMB is entering an agreement with local governments to develop certain areas of the PA for ecological tourism, and where low impacts and ecologically sensitive tourism activities may be implemented. The MUZ may also include areas consisting of existing installations of national significance or interest, such as renewable energy sources, telecommunication facilities and electric power lines.*

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