Mt. Hamiguitan now on Unesco World Heritage List

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THE PYGMY field at Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental province Eden Jhan Licayan/INQUIRER MINDANAO

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—The Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental province has been included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (Unesco) World Heritage List.

The decision to inscribe as World Heritage was reached during the 38th session of the Unesco World Heritage Committee in Qatar on Monday (June 23) afternoon (5 p.m. Philippine time).

Mt. Hamiguitan, shared by the towns of San Isidro and Governor Generoso, is a nesting and feeding area of Philippine eagles, the country’s national bird and the world’s second-largest eagle.

But the range is more known for its unique pygmy forest, a 225-hectare field of 100-year-old bonsai trees.

The 6,834-ha sanctuary is also home to golden crown flying foxes, the Philippine tarsiers, the Philippine warty pigs, Philippine brown deer and the Philippine mossy-pygmy fruit bats.

A total of 53 bird species, like the dark-eared brown dove and the tarictic hornbill, are found in the sanctuary.

It was declared as a protected area in 2004.

“Mt. Hamiguitan is highly significant in the Philippines’ seventh ranking among the 17 biologically rich countries of the world. The site represents the fast disappearing habitats of globally important species of plants and animals,” a paper submitted by the Davao Oriental government to the Unesco said.

“The diversity of habitats and plant and animal species in this property is attributed to the geologic setting, that is, Mt. Hamiguitan is an ultramafic terrain giving rise to an ultramafic forest and associated diverse habitats and flora and fauna. At the national level, this sanctuary is a conservation interest. At a global scale, it is known to be a habitat of globally important species of plants and animals,” the paper added.

Gov. Corazon Malanyaon, in an earlier interview, said the province would “expect the influx of experts, scientists and researchers” after the inscription.

“It is the first Unesco heritage site for Mindanao,” she added.

The Mt. Hamiguitan range is the sixth UN-protected area in the country. The others are the Cordillera Rice Terraces, the Puerto Princesa Underground River, the Tubbataha Reefs, Vigan City and the baroque churches.

Malanyaon, in a statement e-mailed to the Inquirer, expressed her “deepest gratitude to the World Heritage Committee for the inscription.”

“The conservation of this property is the Filipino people’s gift to the rest of humanity,” Malanyaon said.

“The inscription is a celebration of the global partnership in our shared vision and desire to conserve these natural gifts for future generation. It is also a step forward toward the continuation of monitoring and preserving the fragile ecosystems in the mountain amidst changing climate and typhoon patterns,” she added.

“The DOT (Department of Tourism) celebrates Philippine biodiversity through this feat. … This will create more champions for conservation,” Assistant Tourism Secretary  Art Boncato, who was also in Qatar, told the Inquirer in a  chat.

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