An environmental lawyer has questioned changes in the boundaries of the Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL) that resulted from an assessment by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

"We will be sending a letter to the DENR and ask them for the scientific findings," Gloria Estenzo-Ramos told Sun.Star Cebu. "They should have consulted the people, the stakeholders, about the changes in the technical description of the CCPL."

Ramos was referring to DENR Administrative Order 2010-20, which revised boundaries of the CCPL boundaries and designated adjacent areas as buffer zones or multi-purpose zones, which are open to commercial uses.

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The DAO revises the technical description of the protected area as detailed in Republic Act 9486 or the law that created the CCPL, said Protected Area and Wildlife Division chief Chamberlain Babiera.

The CCPL, which is about 29,000 hectares, is composed of five watersheds, namely: Buhisan Watershed Forest Reserve, Mananga Watershed Forest Reserve and Kotkot-Lusaran Watershed Forest Reserve and the national parks of Central Cebu and Sudlon. It covers portions of the towns of Minglanilla, Consolacion, Liloan, Compostela and Balamban, and the cities of Toledo, Talisay, Cebu and Danao.

"The question is, can a DAO amend the law?" asked Ramos, who also asked if the process in determining the boundaries was transparent and participated in by nongovernment organizations.

"Another point is that the DAO was issued last June 28, 2010. Was this a midnight order?" she added.

Ramos said the DENR cannot just introduce changes to a law without consultation and scientific basis.

"They should also inform the CCPL Protected Area Management Board, which should have a say on this. They have to explain (to the board) how they came up with their findings," she said.

"It is clear that the law can be changed only by an act of Congress," she added.

In an earlier interview, Babiera said the DENR conducted only the assessment of a portion of the CCPL, in Cabadiangan in the municipalities of Liloan and Compostela. However, further revisions were done on the boundaries of CCPL, when they found errors in the technical description provided by the law.

A DENR team also identified the buffer zones. These zones, said Babiera, are the first layer of protection for the actual protected area.