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Four CL areas proposed as Asean heritage parks

Ding Cervantes, Ric Sapnu (The Philippine Star) - April 7, 2014 - 12:00am

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga , Philippines  â€“ Four protected areas in Pampanga, Bulacan and Bataan have been proposed for inclusion in the list of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) heritage parks and reserves, the regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) here bared.

Francisco Milla, Jr., DENR director for Central Luzon, identified the areas as the Biak na Bato National Park (2,177 hectares) in Bulacan, Mt. Arayat National Park (3,715 hectares) in Pampanga, and Bataan Natural Park (19,821 hectares) and Roosevelt Protected Landscape (786 hectares), both in Bataan.

“Once the proposal is approved, these protected areas will receive international funding from ASEAN and European funding countries to further promote their conservation and protection,” he said.

Up to 150,000 euros (up to P9 million) in grant funds shall be given to protected areas once they meet the screening criteria set by the Los Baños-based ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB) which serves as secretariat to the ASEAN Heritage Park Program, Milla noted.

Protected areas are areas set aside by government for their unique physical and biological significance, managed to enhance biological diversity and protected against destructive human exploitation.

“The Philippines is one of the 18 mega diverse countries in the world, but it is also one of the world’s biodiversity ‘hotspots.’ We can reverse this trend by promoting greater public awareness of and cooperation in the protection and conservation of our protected areas,” he said.

Earlier, a team of biodiversity and conservation experts from ACB embarked on a two-day mission in Central Luzon to make an initial assessment of the proposed protected areas.

Central Luzon has 35 protected areas covering a total of 341,430 hectares, DENR records showed.

There are 33 declared ASEAN Heritage Parks in 10 Southeast Asian countries. Of these, five are found in the Philippines, namely: Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park (Bukidnon), Mt. Apo Natural Park (Davao), Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park (Mindoro), Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park (Misamis Occidental) and Mt. Makiling Nature Reserve (Laguna).

Milla noted that aside from the high conservation importance of these protected areas, they also possess unique biodiversity, high rate of species endemism and high species diversity.

Statistics from Conservation International showed that one-third of the more than 9,250 vascular plant species native to the Philippines are endemic to the country. Of the more than 530 bird species found in the Philippines, 185 are endemic and over 60 are threatened.

At least 165 mammal species are also found in the Philippines, of which over 100 are endemic, one of the highest in mammal endemism in any hotspot country in the world.

AREAS ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS BATAAN NATURAL PARK BATO NATIONAL PARK BULACAN AND BATAAN CENTRAL LUZON CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL PAMPANGA PARK PROTECTED
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