MANILA, Philippines - The Mt. Malindang Natural Range Park in Misamis Occidental was declared the new ASEAN Heritage Park.
The declaration was made during the 13th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment held recently in Cambodia.
Southeast Asia now has 30 ASEAN Heritage Parks (AHPs) following the declaration of the Malindang Range Park together with Singapore’s Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
Dr. Monina Uriarte of the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB), coordinator of the AHP program, said AHPs are “protected areas of high conservation importance, preserving in total a complete spectrum of representative ecosystems of the ASEAN region.”
“The AHP Program aims to generate greater awareness, pride, appreciation, enjoyment and conservation of ASEAN’s rich natural heritage, through a regional network of representative protected areas, and to generate greater collaboration among ASEAN member states in preserving their shared natural heritage,” Uriarte said in a statement posted on the ACB website.
“To qualify as an AHP, parks have to meet stringent criteria such as ecological completeness, naturalness and high conservation importance,” Uriarte added.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the Philippines proclaimed Mt. Malindang Range as National Park and Watershed Reserve on June 19, 1971.
In 2004, it became part of the National Integrated Protected Area System and was renamed the Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park.
The protected area has a total land area of 53,028 hectares and has the following major habitats: grassland, dipterocarp forest, lower montane forest, upland wetland, and mossy and associated forest.
An inventory of plant species on Mt. Malindang in 2004 revealed a total of 1,284 species, 472 genera, and 187 families.
Among the group of plants, 873 were considered as angiosperms, 20 as gymnosperms, 280 as pterodophytes, 85 as byrophytes, and 25 species as lichens.
For Pterodophytes, the number of species recorded represented about 44 percent of the 632 species found in Mindanao.
In 2004, 257 terrestrial vertebrates were recorded in the Mt. Malindang Range. These include 26 amphibians, 33 reptiles, 162 birds and 36 mammals.
Among them are threatened species such as the Philippine Eagle, Philippine deer, Philippine tarsier, rufous hornbill, flying lemur, reticulated python, monitor lizard, Mindanao warty pig, and other rare and endangered species.
Twenty-four birds and three reptile species have cultural and socio-economic significance to the local communities.
Rodrigo Fuentes, executive director of ACB, said the ASEAN region provides habitats for some of the world’s most enigmatic species and harbors a globally significant wealth of biodiversity.
“The declaration of two additional ASEAN Heritage Parks serves to provide additional protection for the very best examples of ASEAN biodiversity, which will benefit from the network of cooperation for regional conservation provided through the ASEAN Heritage Parks Program,” Fuentes said.
The ACB serves as the secretariat of the ASEAN Heritage Parks Program and helps strengthen AHP management and awareness through capacity-building initiatives, AHP conferences, and public awareness activities.