RUFOUS NIGHT HERON. Joan Lagunda, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Assistant Secretary for Operations-Western Mindanao, leads the release of Brahminy Kite and Rufous Night Heron at the bird sanctuary of the Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology on March 4, 2022. The release of the wildlife is in line with celebration of the 2022 World Wildlife Day. (Photo courtesy of DENR-9)

MANILA – A House of Representatives panel on Wednesday approved measures for the conservation and protection of wildlife resources, as well as the promotion of sustainable forest management.

The House Committee on Natural Resources chaired by Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. approved the proposal to protect wildlife resources, as contained in House Bills 154, 2595, 306, 309, 485, 1534 and 2769.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the bill aims to ensure that the country's flora and fauna, as well as the ecosystems where they live, are protected from threats including habitat destruction and fragmentation, overexploitation, poaching and hunting, pollution, climate change and culling.

"This will ensure that our environment will be protected not only for us but for future generations as well," Rodriguez said.

The bill provides for stronger measures to conserve and protect the country's wildlife resources to promote ecological balance and proposes stiffer penalties against individuals violating provisions in the proposed law.

The panel also approved the proposal to sustain forest management through House Bills 1878, 2018 and 2469.

Abra Rep. Menchie " Ching" Bernos said the institutionalization of sustainable forest management is an imperative task for the government to protect and preserve the Philippines' vast forest ecosystem.

Sustainable forest management, as defined by the United Nations, is the stewardship of forests in a way that maintains biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality, and their potential to meet relevant, ecological, economic, and social functions without damage to other ecosystems.

"Sustainable forest management requires our government to institutionalize mechanisms and processes that respond to forest management concerns in terms of development, regulation, protection, and the mitigation of the impacts of industrial demand," Bernos said.

The bill proposes the reconstitution and strengthening of the Forest Management Bureau as managers or administrators of forest resources, as well as "stewards and guardians" of the forest ecosystem.

"Deforestation is not a problem to be faced by future generations. This is a problem that we face right now. But through the swift and decisive action of the government, with the help of civil society groups and the public at large, we will still be able to save our forests and our entire nation's ecological balance," Bernos said. (PNA)