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.