THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has urged Memorandum of Understanding (MoA) holders for projects considered special uses in all protected areas, including the Upper River Basin Protected Landscape Marikina (UMRBPL), to request special use agreement in protected areas or SAPA.
This is because the DENR has stated that SAPAs aim to provide economic access and opportunity to indigenous peoples.
A SAPA is an agreement between the DENR and a project promoter, which has a duration of 25 years and is renewable for another 25 years.
Under the National Integrated System of Protected Areas (Nipas) Act 1992 or the broader Nipas Act (Enipas), special uses may be permitted within protected areas, except in areas of strict protection and strict nature reserves, subject to compliance with the environmental compliance certificate and payment. corresponding usage fees.
The act also states that the Secretary of the Environment has the authority to determine a set of system-wide fees and charges to ensure sustainable funding for protected areas.
“The law requires some type of agreement with the DENR on particular uses of protected areas. We are bound by this law. The conversion of an MoA to SAPA is also an opportunity for the DENR to course correct These flaws include unconstitutional provisions and provisions that violate the Enipas Act and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act,” DENR Acting Secretary Jim Sampulna said in a statement on Saturday.
The rules and regulations implementing the Enipas Act provide that MoAs issued by the DENR in protected areas before the entry into force of the Nipas Act must be converted to SAPA once the requirements have been met.
According to Sampulna, this is the “best possible solution” that the DENR has found so far after a series of consultations and meetings with various stakeholders.
The 1987 Constitution sets a 25-year limit, renewable for a further 25 years, on the duration of agreements entered into by the State for the exploration, development and use of natural resources.
A SAPA is the type of agreement applicable to special uses of protected areas.
The rules and regulations under the Nipas Law provide that ecotourism is one of the special uses of protected areas.
Provide economic opportunities
SAPAs aim to provide economic access and opportunities to indigenous peoples, titular migrant communities and other protected area stakeholders; optimize the development of special-use projects that comply with the principles of sustainable development and biodiversity conservation in collaboration with stakeholders; guide the development of protected area areas within their management objectives; and provide a revenue stream for the sustainable management of protected areas.
Under a memorandum of understanding signed in 2017, the DENR granted a perpetual land trust to the Masungi Georeserve Foundation.
The MoA lacked the free and prior informed consent of indigenous peoples whose ancestral domain overlaps with the 2,700 hectares covered by the MoA. It also does not provide for the payment of user fees.
In 2018, DENR issued DENR Administrative Order 2018-05, Addendum to DENR Administrative Order 2007-17 Rules and Regulations Governing Special Uses in Protected Areas, which states that “any protocol of existing Special Uses Agreement in Protected Areas shall be converted to SAPA in accordance with DAO 2007-17 and this Order.”
Meanwhile, Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Director Natividad Bernardino said the DENR welcomes such passionate development partners as the Masungi Georeserve Foundation.
“I believe that the objectives of DENR and the foundation are the same. We just need to ensure that cooperation with development partners is in line with law and policy, such as providing sustainable funding for the system protected areas through the payment of user fees,” Bernardino said.
She is committed to working with relevant stakeholders and government officials to determine a fair, equitable and lasting deal toward common goals.