House OKs Panaon Island Protected Seascape bill
Press Release Date: December 6, 2023
In a significant stride to safeguard the rich marine biodiversity of Panaon Island, 247 members of the House of Representatives approved the bill on third and final reading on November 29 to declare the more than 60,000 hectares of waters surrounding Panaon Island located in the southern tip of Southern Leyte as a protected seascape under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act.
The bill, principally authored by Southern Leyte representatives Christopherson Yap and Luz Mercado of the second and first districts, respectively, has 106 co-authors including Speaker Martin Romualdez and Natural Resources Committee chair Elpidio Barzaga, Jr.
Once enacted into law, comprehensive protection measures for the diverse ecosystems within the region will be instituted, such as, the formulation of a management plan and strengthened regulations to prevent overfishing, illegal fishing, habitat destruction, and other activities detrimental to the marine environment. The declaration of Panaon Island Protected Seascape sets the framework that will ensure sustainable ecotourism and livelihood activities that balance socio-economic development with conservation efforts.
The Panaon Island Protected Seascape covers the municipalities of Liloan, San Francisco, Pintuyan, and San Ricardo in the Province of Southern Leyte. It has coral reefs with up to 60% of very good coral cover, way above the national average of around 20% and is home to endangered species listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species like whale sharks and sea turtles.
“National agencies, local government units, Fisheries Management Area 8 Management Body, non-government organizations, community leaders, artisanal fisherfolk and citizens have rallied behind the Panaon Island Protected Seascape bills filed at the House of Representatives and the Senate. Their unwavering support is crucial in highlighting the importance of preserving the natural beauty and ecological balance of Panaon Island. The passage of the bill at the HoR is a testament that through collaborative efforts we can achieve more in protecting our vital marine ecosystems for the present and future generations. We are looking forward to the passage of the counterpart bill on Panaon Island in the Senate,” Oceana Vice President Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos said.
Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change filed Senate Bill 1690, titled as the “Panaon Island Protected Seascape Act of 2023”, to declare Panaon Island as a protected seascape under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, RA 11038.
“There is a pressing need to declare more protected areas through legislation as a strategy to counteract biodiversity loss. Oceana’s expedition in 2021 unveiled the marine treasures of Panaon, from untouched coral reefs to diverse marine life – a spectacle that our photo exhibit today proudly displays. These discoveries underscore the need to include Panaon Island under the protective framework of the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act, RA 11038. We are hopeful for the passage of the proposed Panaon Island Seascape Act within this 19th Congress,” Villar explained during the launch of photo exhibit on Panaon Island in the Senate in September.
With Senator Villar at the helm of efforts to protect Panasonic Island in the Senate, Oceana said, Panaon Island will soon have the management mechanisms that will pave the way for a truly resilient and healthy ecosystem that provides a rich source of nutrients, sustenance and livelihood for its people while mitigating the impacts of climate change. (END)
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-quarter of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 275 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, oil and plastic pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles, whales, and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit Oceana.org and ph.oceana.org to learn more.
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Joyce Sierra, Communications Manager, Oceana
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