SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House committee on natural resources has approved a proposal allowing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to revert to forest lands those fishponds which have been unutilized or abandoned for a period of three years.
The committee chaired by Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate (Party-list, Bayan Muna) approved the proposal embodied in House Bill 854 authored by Rep. Linabelle Ruth R. Villarica (4th District, Bulacan) prior to the congressional adjournment.
Villarica said environmental laws must be attuned to the demands of climate change as well as the socio- economic needs of the increasing number of people living in communities.
Villarica, however, said Presidential Decree No. 705, otherwise known as "The Revised Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines" requires that for the DENR to revert fishponds with Fisheries Lease Agreements (FLAB) to forest lands, the fishponds must have been unutilized and abandoned for a period of five years from the time these were released for such purposes.
“The five-year period is deemed too long for such fishponds to be utilized for purposes other than what they were intended for, such as for mangrove propagation to address the devastating effects brought about by climate change or for promoting eco-tourism activities to jumpstart the economy of communities wanting in socio-economic development,” said Villarica.
To effectively implement the provision on the reversion of fishponds as well as the Fishpond Lease Agreements (FLAs) issued by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) covering fishponds, Villarica said the DA should be mandated to prepare with the DENR joint guidelines in determining abandoned, undeveloped or underutilized fishponds.
“House Bill 854 seeks to address these concerns. The bill was filed during the 16th Congress, but was not taken up due to time constraints. It was refilled for the consideration of the 17th Congress,” said Villarica, chairperson of the committee on foreign affairs.
The bill seeks to amend Section 43 of PD 705 titled Swamplands and Mangrove Forests, so that “Mangrove and other swamps released to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for fishpond purposes which are not utilized or which have been abandoned for three years from the date of such release shall revert to the category of forest land."
Moreover, the amendment provides: “The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources shall determine in a set of joint guidelines, abandoned, undeveloped or underutilized fishponds covered by Fishpond Lease Agreements (FLAs).