World Wetlands Day highlights Mindoro’s diversity
Juancho Mahusay (The Philippine Star) - February 24, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A partners’ forum and photo exhibit, spearheaded by the Mindoro Bio-diversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (MBCFI) in partnership with the provincial government of Oriental Mindoro, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) and other groups from the private sector, were successfully held in Calapan City in Mindoro as part of the celebration of World Wetlands Day.

Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali Jr. said the preservation of wetlands is as important as the protection of forests, since it also provides many benefits to the people in terms of environment, food and livelihood.

In Oriental Mindoro, Naujan Lake National Park (NLNP) is a prime example of a wetland that attained global stature when it was declared in 1999 as the 1008th of international importance by the Ramsar Convention, named after a coastal city in Iran near the Caspian Sea where an international conference was held in 1971.

MBCFI executive director Grace Diamante reported during the forum that Naujan Lake is one of the priority areas of MBCFI, a non-government organization established to ensure the conservation of Mindoro’s unique and threatened environment.

Diamante stressed in her report that there are seven “island endemic mammals” and six species of birds that need the protection of all stakeholders in Oriental Mindoro, particularly those living near the lake and other equally important sites such as Mount Halcon, the town of Bulalacao, Mount Malasimbo in Puerto Galera and Mount Hinunduang.

Leo Capon, an environmental and natural resources officer and concurrent assistant superintendent at Naujan Lake, noted that the lake, the fifth largest in the Philippines, was officially declared a national park in 1956. It has a total area of 21,655 hectares, has in its periphery 21 barangays bordering the towns of Naujan, Victoria, Socorro and Pola.

The rare Philippine Serpent Eagle, which the locals call sirok, and the Tarictic Hornbill have been spotted in the lake, according to Don Geoff Tabaranza, MBCFI project development and resource manager, who led the photo-safari organized by the group in partnership with Wild Birds Photographers of the Philippines.

It is also the only area in the Philippines with the reported presence of a critically endangered fresh water sawfish.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated annually in a bid to raise public awareness of wetland values and benefits.

This year’s theme is “Wetlands and Agriculture: Partners for Growth” which focuses on the need for the wetland, water and agricultural sectors to work together for the best shared outcomes.

Diamante thanked Umali, DENR Regional Director Oscar Dominguez and Rey Sta. Ana of WBPP for their collaboration and active participation in the environmental awareness effort.

MBCFI was established as an offshoot of an island-wide study of flora and fauna initiated by Malampaya Joint Venture Partners in coordination with Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc., Flora and Fauna International and University of the Philippines-Los Baños in Laguna.

The Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power Project is a national government project under Petroleum Service Contract 38 (SC 38), between the government  and the SC 38 Consortium composed of Shell Philippines Exploration, B.V. (SPEX), Chevron Malampaya LLC and the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC).

CALAPAN CITY CASPIAN SEA CHEVRON MALAMPAYA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION INC DON GEOFF TABARANZA FLORA AND FAUNA INTERNATIONAL AND UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES-LOS BA GRACE DIAMANTE NAUJAN LAKE ORIENTAL MINDORO WORLD WETLANDS DAY
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