Mt. Arayat eyed as heritage park

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Friday, April 4, 2014


MABALACAT CITY -- The Mt. Arayat National Park in Arayat, Pampanga has been proposed for inclusion in the list of Asean heritage parks and reserves.

This was disclosed by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional director Francisco Milla Jr. who said in a statement that Mt. Arayat National Park, with a total area of 3,715 hectares, is among the four areas in Central Luzon eyed as Asean parks.

Milla confirmed that Biak na Bato National Park (2,177 hectares) in Bulacan, and Bataan Natural Park (19,821 hectares) and Roosevelt Protected Landscape (786 hectares), both in Bataan, have also been proposed for inclusion in the heritage list.

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"Once approved, these protected areas shall receive international funding from Asean and European funding countries to further promote their conservation and protection," he said.

Up to 150,000 Euros or up to P9 million in grant funds shall be given to protected areas once they meet the screening criteria set by the Los Banos-based Asean Center for Biodiversity (ACB) which serves as secretariat to the Asean Heritage Park Programme.

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

To make it into the heritage list, a protected area must be ecologically complete and represents the different ecosystems; its conservation is highly important; it is documented as a conservation area; and has an approved management plan, among other criteria.

“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 and cooperation in the protection and conservation of our protected areas,” Milla said.

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

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

There are 33 declared ASEAN Heritage Park 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).

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

Conservation planning, species database establishment, training on biodiversity conservation, collaborative law enforcement, biodiversity monitoring, and payment of environmental services to host communities are the added benefits and services extended by the Asean heritage program.

Statistics from the 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 mammals 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.

Tropical forests, which comprised only 6% of the world’s surface area, contain one-half to three-quarters of the earth’s species of plants and animals.

The Asean Heritage Park Program is a regional cooperation among Asean member countries that aims to effectively manage ecological representatives protected areas in Southeast Asia.

A declaration on Asean Heritage Park and Reserve has been signed by the Asean member countries in 1984 to strengthen the establishment of protected areas, promote greater collaboration in the Southeast Asian region, and address biodiversity and climate change issues.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on April 05, 2014.

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