IN a recent Senate session, eleven (11) bills were deliberated upon, concerning the declaration of 10 areas as protected zones and the expansion of one protected area under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System or ENIPAS. Notably, among these 11 bills, the proposal to expand the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park stands out, as it has profound implications for environmental conservation and flood prevention efforts.

LPPWP, also referred to as the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area or LPPCHEA, was designated as a Critical Habitat in 2007 by presidential proclamation. This designation aims to safeguard the survival of at least 5,000 threatened, restricted range, and congregatory species of birds. LPPWP also plays a crucial role as a natural drainage system, redirecting water from nearby rivers and thereby preventing flooding in densely populated areas like Las Piñas. Globally recognized, LPPWP is included in the list of Ramsar wetlands of international importance. Named after the City of Ramsar in Iran, where the convention was signed in 1971, it underscores the significance of wetland ecosystems in supporting biodiversity and environmental health.

Senator Cynthia Villar, sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1536, seeks to expand the 175-hectare LPPWP, emphasizing the necessity of legislative protection for the wetlands due to imminent risks posed by the ongoing massive land reclamation projects and mangrove cutting in nearby areas. The proposed expansion will cover an additional 1,761 hectares.

Concurring with Villar, Senator Koko Pimentel raised concerns regarding the efficacy of existing protection measures, particularly in light of reported lapses in enforcement by the Protected Area Management Board.  He emphasized the importance of ensuring compliance with legal requirements to prevent potential litigation and ensure effective protection of designated areas. He proposed amendments to clarify penal provisions under Senate Bill No. 1536 that would strengthen enforcement mechanisms and deter infringements on protected areas. Both senators highlighted the need to reassess the composition of the PAMB to address issues of representation and governance.

I particularly commend Senator Cynthia Villar for her tireless efforts in preserving the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetlands, which demonstrate her enduring commitment to prioritizing the welfare of future generations. Despite her considerable wealth, she could easily opt for a life of leisure. However, she steadfastly remains a staunch advocate for the environment until her last breath. Through her unwavering determination and steadfast advocacy, she continues to inspire positive change and foster a legacy of environmental stewardship for generations to come.