By John Noel E. Herrera
Senator Cynthia Villar vowed to push for more legislated protected areas in the country during her visit to Barotac Viejo, Iloilo.
“We are happy to have this legislation ensuring the protection of more green areas in the country. We have to take action about this as any damage or loss will cost too much,” Villar said.
Villar, who chairs the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, also emphasized that under the 1987 Constitution, it is a declared state policy that the State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced ecology in line with safeguarding a healthful nature.
She added that these identified protected areas and other potential areas should not be damaged or destroyed, but protected, not only for the sake of the endangered species but of the future generation as well.
Villar personally attended the launching of Sicogon Island Wildlife Sanctuary as one of the legislated protected areas in the country. She also participated in the massive tree-planting activity in Brgy. Sto Tomas and Sitio Nagpana, Barangay Lipata, Barotac Viejo, on Dec 8, 2022.
During the event, she told the residents that it is also their responsibility to take care of the “wildlife sanctuary” while the area is being developed.
“Your wildlife sanctuary is home to 318 species of plants and 32 species of which are endemic to Panay, including the ‘batwan’ that is a prime culinary ingredient, seven species of amphibians, 15 species of reptiles, including a new species of a dwarf gecko and 63 species of mammals of which 12 are endemic in the Philippines. The presence of Sicogon Island Wildlife Sanctuary I believe also complements well with the tourism potential in the area,” Villar added.
The Republic Act (RA) 11933 or the Sicogon Island Wildlife Sanctuary Act declared two parcels of land in the said area in the town of Carles, Iloilo as protected areas in the category of Wildlife Sanctuary under the National Integrated Protected Areas (NIPAS).
The enactment of RA 11933 was sponsored by Villar in the Senate, while one of the proponents of House Bill (HB) 9328 is 5th district Rep. Raul C. Tupas.
The island, with an estimated area of 1,160 hectares, is also characterized by moderately rolling terrain with the highest elevation of about 300 meters above sea level, and has 12 freshwater springs which are the source of drinking and day-to-day use of residents.
Meanwhile, Villar also expressed support for the plan of the local leaders of Barotac Viejo to make the mountainous part of Sitio Nagpana in Brgy. Lipata part of legislated protected areas.
“Yun hindi pa legislated protected area, but I think it’s owned by the government, and this mountain, so this one, we want to turn it into legislated protected area kasi malaki daw to, 2,000 hectares,” she said.
Villar, together with Tupas and other local leaders and students in Barotac Viejo also conducted a tree-planting activity in the said areas and was able to plant around 50,000 seedlings of native trees.