MAMBAJAO, Camiguin, March 31 (PIA) – The Island’s bold move to bid to the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) to be included among the finest protected areas paid off when Mts. Timpoong-Hibok-hibok Natural Monument (MTHNM) was declared as the 8th ASEAN Heritage Park (AHP) in the Philippines during and the 3rd in Region 10 during the Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam in October 2015.
To formally confirm the recognition, ACB Executive Director Atty. Roberto V. Oliva and Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR) Undersecretary for field operation Demetrio Ignacio Jr. presented the plague of declaration to Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) Chair, DENR-10 Regional Director Ruth Tawantawan and Camiguin Governor Jurdin Jesus M. Romualdo during the launching ceremony held in the province on 16 March 2016.
The declaration, according to Oliva is a first in many respects, “This is the only heritage park with recommendation coming from the local government unit (LGU) and a manifestation of success when the DENR and the local government units (LGUs) are seeing eye to eye, passionately pursuing one vision to protect the biodiversity and surrounding natural resources.”
Oliva said MTHNM meets the criteria for exemplary uniqueness, completeness, and richness in biodiversity.
DENR rated the protected area with high level endemism, with diverse flora and fauna life. Various endemic species as birds, rodents, amphibians, medicinal trees, dipterocarps, rattans, and ferns have been discovered and identified inside the MRHNM.
It has a total strict protection zone of 2,227 hectares and a buffer zone of 1,422 hectares. The local communities within the buffer zone acts as the social fence of the natural monument.
The MTHNM, being a watershed for the whole island, is the source of water for domestic and agricultural uses. Its geo-physical features which include waterfalls, cold, hot and soda springs, mountain lakes and distinctive rock formation have high ecotourism value.
Biodiversity as cornerstone for development
Citing the edge of the ASEAN member countries as the fastest growing economy in the word, the ACB Executive Director stressed on the need for biodiversity protection and conservation.
“The cornerstone of ASEAN integration or development is our biodiversity, ASEAN occupies only 3 percent of the world’s surface but we are home to 20 percent of all flora and fauna in the world, 30 percent of coral reefs and 35 percent of mangrove forest. Philippines is a mega diverse country along with Indonesia and Malaysia.”
The declaration of MTHNM as ASEAN Heritage Park will open opportunities for the island-province as there will be more information assistance and data sharing.
As the leaders of the province successfully bring home the bacon, Oliva commended all Camiguingnons for their contribution noting “You are all champions, individual champions, but becoming a true champion we must all make others champion so that everyone will be prosperous.”
Congressman Xavier Jesus D. Romualdo likewise stressed that care for the environment has intergenerational indications; it involves the concept of intergenerational responsibility, that while we have the right to enjoy the environment and resources we also have the legal obligation to take care of it.
“With privilege comes responsibility and responsibility begets accountability, for the people of Camiguin begins the day that we recognize, assert even greater responsibility to protect and conserve the environment,” he said.
Protected areas declared as AHP gets the edge as an ecotourism destination and models for effective protected area management through the enhancement programs of the ACB.
Other AHPs found in the Philippines includes Mt. Apo Natural Park, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildfire Sanctuary, Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park, Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park, Mount Makiling Forest Reserve, Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park, and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. (JCV/PIA)