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 that have been unused or abandoned for three years.

The committee chaired by Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate (Party-list, Bayan Muna) approved the proposal included in House Bill 854, authored by Rep. Linabelle Ruth R. Villarica (Bulacan) before Congress adjourned for the holidays.

Villarica said in a press statement that environmental laws must be attuned to the demands of climate change as well as the socio-economic needs of the increasing number of people.

Villarica, however, said Presidential Decree 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 unused and abandoned for five years from the time these were released.

5 years too long

“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,” said Villarica.

Villarica said that the Department of Agriculture (DA) should prepare with the DENR joint guidelines in determining abandoned, undeveloped or underused fishponds. This would help it 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).

“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.

The bill seeks to amend Section 43 of PD 705, 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.” (PR)