Mounts Apo, Iglit-Baco covered by Asean Heritage Parks program
Mounts Apo, Iglit-Baco covered by Asean Heritage Parks program
- Rudy A. Fernandez () - October 31, 2004 - 12:00am
LOS BAÑOS, Laguna — Two Philippine national parks have been included in the ASEAN Heritage Parks Program (AHP), which was launched recently in Thailand.

Mt. Apo National Park in Davao Oriental and Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park situated between Occidental and Oriental Mindoro are among 27 national protected areas in Southeast Asia designated as ASEAN Heritage Parks following a declaration signed by ASEAN environment ministers in Yangon (Myanmar) on Dec. 18, 2003.

The declaration asserts that "common cooperation is neces-sary to conserve and manage ASEAN Heritage Parks for the development and implementation of regional conservation and management action plans as well as regional mechanisms comple-mentary to and supportive of national efforts to implement conservation measures."

Signatory to the ASEAN Declaration on Heritage Parks for the Philippines was then Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Elisea G. Gozun.

The other parks covered by the AHP are in Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The program was launched at a conference held recently at the Kao Yai National Park situated about 200 kilometers east of the Thai capital city of Bangkok. The launching ceremony was led by ASEAN Secretary General Ong Keng Yong.

The Philippine delegation was headed by DENR Undersecretary Renato de Rueda.

Supported by the European Union (EU)-funded, Los Baños-based ASEAN Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation (ARCBC), the ASEAN Heritage Parks Program will see a series of actions undertaken by the member-countries to establish and protect prime habitats throughout the region.

Speaking at the launch, Johan Cauwenbergh from the Delegation of the European Commission in Thailand said:

"The European Union is proud to have played a small role in helping this initiative become reality. These parks will preserve the rich fauna and flora of the region. They will also protect and strengthen the cultural identity, spiritual values and appreciation of biodiversity among the peoples of ASEAN while boosting opportunities for recreation, education, and research."

The ASEAN Heritage Parks Program is designed to compliment the protection of several Natural World Heritage Sites within Southeast Asia and will form an important part of ASEAN’s efforts to meet the United Nations Millennium goals on the environment with respect to reducing biodiversity loss.

The AHP will feature a number of components.

Regional activities for capacity development will be launched on the basis of standards developed by ARCBC. An information sharing network will be established while a mechanism for sustainable financing to ensure adequate funding support from international communities and eco-tourism will be developed.

Furthermore, the parks will be encouraged to participate in joint research projects. Efforts will be made to encourage local universities to adopt these sites as living laboratories and the parks will be asked to provide field stations that will encourage scientists to use their facilities.

The Mt. Apo Park, established in 1936, has an area of 72,113 hectares.

Its flora includes 629 species under 148 families of vascular and nonvascular plants. A total of 572 species belong to 124 families of ferns and angiosperms, while 57 species belong to 24 families of bryophytes (mosses).

A total of 227 vertebrates species belonging to 69 families of birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals have been recorded in Mt. Apo. Also, 118 species of butterflies belonging to 69 families are recorded in the area.

Mt. Apo is home to the Philippine eagle, the most important bird species in this mountain. The eagle is not found elsewhere in the world and has become the symbol of environmental preservation in the country as well as the national bird.

Mts. Iglit-Baco were proclaimed as a national park on Nov. 11, 1970 by virtue of Republic Act No. 6148.

Having an area of 75,445 ha, their western half is covered by the Occidental Mindoro towns of Sablayan, Calintaan, Rizal, and partly of San Jose. The western half is within the municipal jurisdiction of Bongabong and Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro.

The MIBNP is the habitat of the highest remaining population of the endangered tamaraw, which is found only on Mindoro Island. It has been declared as an ASEAN Heritage Park and is also being considered as a World Heritage Site owing to the endangered status of the tamaraw.

The tamaraw was originally widespread in Mindoro and its population was estimated to be 10,000 in the early part of the 1900s. The remaining population at present is only a few hundreds and can mostly be found in the upper elevation of the Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park.

Other remnant populations may be found in the Aruyan-Sablayan area and Mt. Calivate.

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