PANAMA CITY – The delay in coming up with plans for managing Panama’s protected areas impedes their use as practical models for fighting climate change, Environment Minister Emilio Sempris said on Monday.
“There are 121 protected areas in the country and only 23 have a management plan. We have to fix this delay, which is partly due to the existing regulations that keep us from getting the job done at the necessary speed,” Sempris said during a forum on climate change in the Panamanian capital.
The minister said there has to be a new and different approach to the natural areas, so that now the Environment Ministry is getting down to developing campaigns that promote the benefits and attractions these properties have to offer.
“We’re planning to sign an agreement with the National Park Sovereignty to try to get people closer to the woods. That will send a clear message that Panama is fighting climate change on a practical level,” he said.
He also noted that conservation areas occupy more than 40 percent of national territory, three times more that the world average of 12 percent.
Sempris said the Environment Ministry is looking to to imitate a system like Japan’s, where visiting its protected areas is a big attraction.
“The annual number of visitors to Japan’s protected areas is 350 million, while Panama gets around 170,000 – that’s a huge difference,” the minister said.
Last December the ministry eliminated entrance fees and camping permits in parks of the National System of Protected Areas (Sinap), in order to boost ecotourism.
Among the protected areas are Santa Fe National Park, Chagres National Park, Altos de Campana National Park & Biological Reserve, the Camino de Cruces National Park, Darien National Park, Baru Volcano National Park, La Amistad International Park and Coiba National Park.
Panama’s forum on “Challenges and Opportunities from Climate Change,” in which the environment minister took part, was also attended by representatives of the International Center for Sustainable Development, the Panama Canal and the Development Bank of Latin America-CAF.