VYING for a World Heritage inscription of two endangered biodiversity areas in the Davao Region could do well as a conservation and protection strategy.
The Mt. Apo Natural Park and the Mt. Hamiguitan Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental, which have unique and endangered biodiversity, are now considered for serial nomination as sanctuaries of endemism.
A bonsai tree,at the peak of Mt.Hamiguitan (photo courtesy ot TPEF research team)
The thousand hectare pygmy forest
The Mt. Apo Natural Park is considered to be the 14th bio-geographic zone of the 15 bio-geographic zones of the country. Mt. Hamiguitan Wildlife Sanctuary, on the other hand, encompasses the municipalities of San Isidro, Governor Generoso, and Mati in Davao Oriental.
The inscription of the site in the World Heritage list is a strategy for conservation and serves as magnet for international cooperation and financial assistance for conservation projects. With the inscription, greater effort to increase public awareness of the site and of its outstanding values of our cultural heritage is expected.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco) seeks to encourage the identification, protection, and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage adopted by Unesco in 1972.
Cultural heritage refers to monuments, groups of buildings and sites with historical, aesthetic, archaeological, scientific, ethnological or anthropological value. Natural heritage refers to outstanding physical, biological, and geological formations, habitats of threatened species of animals and plants and areas with scientific, conservation, or aesthetic value.
The Mt. Apo Natural Park and Mt. Hamiguitan Wildlife Sanctuary are considered for their natural heritage values. Both serial sites for nomination encompass different protection zones, which include a buffer zone, multiple use zone, strict protection zone, restoration zone, recreational zone, and special use zone.
There is multiple resource use conflict at the Mt. Apo Natural Park, which is managed by three local government units with their own standards and guidelines as well as program interventions to conserve and protect the resource. Considering the inscription of the area as among the World Heritage Site should signal the need for a comprehensive and deliberate conservation program for the area.
In 2005, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the City Government released their terrain analysis study which provides adequate information on the behavior of the watershed to ensure the optimum development of the resource potential in the area.
Under the terrain analysis, 34,254 hectares were identified as conservation area and 12,240 hectares as potential groundwater recharge zones and agroforestry/agricultural non-tillage area. The Mt. Apo Natural Park was among the 16 sites identified as conservation areas.
The zones providing the strictest protection are those areas with high biodiversity value and shall be closed to all human activities, except scientific studies and traditional ceremonial or religious use by indigenous communities.
Parts of strict protection zones are restoration areas of degraded habitats where the long-term goal will be to restore natural habitats with their associated biodiversity.
Multiple use zones include areas where settlement, traditional land use, including agriculture, agro forestry, sustainable extraction activities, tourism and other income generating activities are allowed for as long as these are within the carrying capacity of the parks' natural resource.
This directs our attention to the various economic activities within the Mt. Apo Natural Park and how they threaten or help preserve the natural resource.
If used towards the advantage of protecting the limited natural values, while taking the opportunity to strengthen it as a tourist area, then the inscription to the World Heritage is an opportunity.