CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- More than 40 conservationists, biologists, wildlife experts and officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR) – Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) in Aurora, in partnership with Protect Wildlife Project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), convened recently to map out plans for the conservation and protection of the remaining biodiversity in Aurora.
Alfredo Collado, provincial head of DENR in Aurora, said the province is covered with more than 70 percent of second growth forests and home to unique plants and animal species including the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) and Raflessia consueloae, a parasitic plant species of the genus Rafflesia that can be found in the Sierra Madre mountain range in the province.
“This biodiversity needs our utmost protection because they maintain the balance of ecosystem and provides numerous benefits to local communities,” he explained.
He said the crafting of the Aurora biodiversity strategy and action plan which is anchored in the Philippine biodiversity strategy and action plan (PBSAP) will help boost the conservation of the province’s rich natural resources including the four newly legislated protected areas.
DENR record shows that Aurora province has four newly legislated protected areas under Republic Act No. 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area System Act of 2018.
These newly legislated protected areas includes the Amro River Protected Landscape (6,431 hectares) in Casiguran and Dinalungan towns; Dinadiawan River Protected Landscape (3,366 ha) in Dipaculao and Dinalungan towns; Simbahan Talagas Protected Landscape (2,284 ha) in Dinalungan town and the Talaytay Protected Landscape (3,598 ha) in Dinalungan and Casiguran towns.
Other important protected areas in the province is the more than 5,000-hectare Aurora Memorial National Park in Maria Aurora and San Luis towns in Aurora and Bongabon town of Nueva Ecija; Calabgan watershed forest reserve (4803 ha) in Casiguran town; Dipaculao watershed forest reserve (1,786 ha) in Dipaculao town; Aurora watershed forest reserve (430 ha) in Baler town; and Dibalo-Pingit-Zabali- Malayat watershed forest reserve (4,528 ha) in Baler and San Luis towns.
According to Felix Mendoza, field site manager of Wildlife Protect Project, the localization of the PBSP in Aurora aims to contribute in the reduction of biodiversity threats, reduction of poaching and use of illegally harvested wildlife and wildlife products.
“We need to localize our national strategy so that our local folks would understand the importance of protecting our biodiversity and help in the improvement of ecosystem goods and services that will benefit our wildlife conservation efforts,” he said.
He pointed out that the plan will also deals with policy, governance and financing biodiversity in Aurora to better conserve its natural resource.
Biodiversity is defined as the variety of life forms on earth and this includes the plants, animals, fishes, insects, fungi, micro-organism, and the interaction among them.
Protect Wildlife Project is the first USAID initiative in the Philippines to align with the U.S. government’s newly signed Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking law of 2016, which addresses the global wildlife trade.