Victorias City Mayor Javier Miguel “Javi” Benitez has recommended to the Sangguniang Panlungsod the passage of an ordinance that will create the Gawahon Development Authority.
Benitez, who led the 17th year anniversary of the Northern Negros Natural Park creation, yesterday said that the Gawahon Development Authority can formulate policies and regulations to further protect the NNNP portion in Victorias City.
He stressed that environmental sustainability and economic development should coexist. But Benitez said they will do it phase-by-phase, to keep to the standards set by the province and the national government.
Third District Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez, who also attended the activity, said that city governments of Silay and Talisay have also created their respective development units to manage properly their natural resources in the NNNP.
Mayor Benitez, meanwhile, noted a marked improvement in the peace and order of Barangay Gawahon, which used to be an insurgency-affected area in Negros Occidental in the late 1980s.
Benitez said he is looking into the possibility of creating a sub-station for the Philippine Army, to assist Bantay Bukid in the campaign against timber poaching and illegal hunting in the park.
Rep. Benitez also stressed the need to raise awareness in maintaining the biodiversity of NNNP.
In marking the NNNP creation 17 years ago, the solon said, “I think the challenge is to ensure, that if there is a development within the park, it should be in accordance with sustaining and conserving the biodiversity and remaining forest cover.”
“If we may be able to increase the forest cover of NNNP, it will have an impact in addressing environmental crisis, climate change, as well as the preservation of watershed,” Rep. Benitez said.
He proposed legislative measures, such as the national asset accounting system, with regards to environmental protection, in order to quantify and evaluate environmental and ecological services, to be included in the development plans of the Regional Development Council up to the national level.
“You have to stop thinking of nature as an endless source, there has to be evaluation and accounting process so that government can impute its value,” he added.
While addressing the illegal structures within the protected area is the job of the Protected Area Management Board and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Benitez said that under the NIPAS (National Integrated Protected Areas System) law, the LGUs are mandated to implement, monitor, and regulate laws, such as the development, business zoning, and building codes, within its multi-use zones.
Provincial Administrator Atty. Rayfrando Diaz, in behalf of Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, lauded the PAMB for the protection of the NNNP, led by its park superintendent, Joan Gerangaya.
The activity was also attended by DENR 6 regional director Livino Duran, Calatrava Mayor Marilyn Era, Toboso Mayor Madonna Jaojoco, Provincial Legal Officer Atty. Alberto Nellas Jr., tourism officers of the 11 LGUs straddled by the NNNP, and Lt. Col. J-Jay Javines, 79IB commander, among others./GB