The House committee on natural resources approved the proposal to designate the Scarborough Shoal and the Kalayaan Island Group as protected areas on Wednesday.

The Kalayaan Island Group and Scarborough Shoal – Marine Protected Area (KIGSS-MPA) Bill, written by Palawan 3rd District Representative Edward S. Hagedorn, wants to make the three nautical miles around Kalayaan Island, including Scarborough Shoal, a marine protected area based on Republic Act 11038, or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018, or the E-NIPAS law.

Hagedorn thanked the committee, led by Rep. Elpidio Bargzaga Jr. of Cavite’s 4th District, and Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez for holding a quick hearing and getting the bill passed in the committee.

He stated that Romualdez gave the bill a high priority and allowed for an immediate committee hearing.

He likewise thanked members of the committee for posing no objection, which included Palawan 2nd District Rep. Jose Alvarez, who he said: “strongly showed his support during the hearing.”

During the final hearing, CIBAC Partylist Representative Eduardo Villanueva stood on his behalf to sponsor the bill and explain its essence.

“Fishes and marine life breed in the coral reefs of the Kalayan Islands, and the eggs and fingerlings are carried by sea currents to other parts of the country’s seascapes, where they thrive, grow, and are eventually caught by fishermen. Coral reefs are the breeding ground, or “nursery,” of marine life. If reefs are destroyed, we nip marine life in the bud. Thus, to allow the destruction of the coral reefs in the Kalayaan Islands will adversely impact fish production in the country and in several adjacent countries,” Villanueva said in his sponsorship speech.

Present with Villanueva during the hearing was retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, who is a staunch advocate of the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea.

Carpio also provided incisive insights for better refinement of the salient provisions of the bill.

Other government agencies present were also present to express support for the bill including the Department of National Defense, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

“It is my sincerest belief that pushing for environmental protection for the KIG and Scarborough Shoal is a common ground that every Filipino could rally behind,” Hagedorn said.

“We do hope that this environmental lens will be likewise used by other coastal states surrounding the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea to promote cooperation and environmental protection for greater peace, stability, and prosperity for the entire region,” he added.

After passing the committee level, the bill will be subjected to deliberation and sponsorship at the House plenary.

About Post Author

Previous articleExpect rainy days ahead
Next articlePuerto Princesa prepares for Love Affair with Nature