The Regional NIPAS Review Committee (RNRC) of DENR CALABARZON undertook its first review on the Protected Area Suitability Assessment (PASA) results of the three (3) watersheds located within the area of responsibility (AOR) of CENRO Calauag on 14 November 2022.

Based on the ENIPAS or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018 (RA 11038) which amends the NIPAS Act of 1992 (RA 7586), the RNRC meeting should be carried to review all documents, including PASA report, pertaining to the establishment or disestablishment of a Protected Area (PA) under the System.

Protected Area Suitability Assessment is significant to the establishment of a PA, for it is a process of screening by the DENR on the proposed areas, including watershed reservations, wherein their suitability under the ENIPAS is bei­ng determined.

Pursuant to Section 5 of Republic Act No. 11038, all areas in the Philippines with proclamation as bird and wildlife sanctuary, wilderness area, strict nature reserve, including watershed, among others, are considered as “initial components” of the ENIPAS and shall undertake PASA.

Presidential Proclamations (PP) that include PP No. 367 of 1939, PP No. 566 of 1940, and PP 295 of 1938 that have been implemented in the CWFR, LWFR, and TDWFR, respectively, have placed the aforesaid watersheds to become initial components of ENIPAS and undergone Protected Area Suitability Assessment.

CENR Officer Joselito D. Barros with his personnel from the Conservation and Development Section (CDS) headed by its Chief, EMS II Novet Joy S. Pantalunan, presented the PASA results of the 3 watersheds― Calauag Watershed Forest Reserve (CWFR), Lopez Watershed Forest Reserve (LWFR), and Tibiang-Domagondong Watershed Forest Reserve (TDWFR).

Meanwhile, Forest Technician II Elloida E. Arenas, CENRO Calauag Watershed Focal Person, provided and discussed the output of the PASA in CWFR. FT II Arenas revealed that the said watershed reservation garnered a 94% rating based on the criteria provided by Annex A of the BMB Technical Bulletin No. 2016-04: Clarifying the Procedural Guidelines in the Conduct of Protected Area Suitability Assessment.

The Annex A of the technical bulletin includes 6 criteria: irreplaceability, vulnerability, value of ecosystem services, naturalness, uniqueness, and abundance, that serve as basis in rating the subject areas.

These criteria cover all the biophysical characteristics of an area including the geological features such as caves, waterfalls, lagoons, rivers, intact forests, distribution of threatened species of animals and plants, among others.

As same as the CWFR, the PASA report of LWFR as discussed by CDS Chief Novet Joy S. Pantalunan, also satisfies the criteria on the establishment of a PA under the System, with a passing rating of 84% gleaned from the Key Informant Interviews (KII) and on-site observations.

Meanwhile, there are still issues to be settled on the PASA report of LWFR. Of which, the revised report, with inclusion of recommendations from the RNRC, will be discussed at the following RNRC meeting.

Hence, the CWFR and LWFR are proposed by CENRO Calauag to be proclaimed as Protected Area under the classification, Protected Landscape, and be governed by the provisions of the ENIPAS.

On the contrary, Forest Technician II Cesar S. Arenas Jr. disclosed that the PASA result of TDWFR manifested a poor rating which resulted in a proposal for disestablishment of the watershed under the ENIPAS.

However, the TDWFR will retain its classification as Timberland with existing Certificate of Stewardship Contracts (CSCs) awarded to some of its upland residents.

The meeting was facilitated by the PAMBCS-CDD Secretariat and was attended by DENR CALABARZON Regional Executive Director Nilo B. Tamoria; Assistant Regional Director for Technical Services Jose Elmer C. Bascos; In-Charge of Conservation and Development Division Chief Mailene M. Gecolea-Laviña; PAMBCS-CDD Chief Salud M. Pangan; Forester Grace V. Malabanan from Enforcement Division; Anna Bettina Dela Cruz of the Legal Division; Surveys and Mapping Division Chief Annalyn Villanueva; PENRO Quezon TSD Chief Julieta P. Narte; MBSCPL PASu Josephine Barrion; and Alen Clyde Canlas from MGB IV-A, who all acted as the RNRC members and representatives during the review.