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Camiguin’s Timpoong, Hibok-Hibok declared Asean Heritage Park

WHITE Island has the ultimate vantage view of Mt. Hibok-Hibok. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

WHITE Island has the ultimate vantage view of Mt. Hibok-Hibok. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MAMBAJAO, Camiguin—A Northern Mindanao province that formed out of nature’s wrath has been officially recognized as a center of one of the most diverse protected landscapes in the country.

On Wednesday, environment officials, the Camiguin provincial government, the Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and their partners gathered in this provincial capital to witness the launching of the Mounts Timpoong Hibok-Hibok Natural Monument (MTHNM) as the country’s eighth Asean Heritage Park (AHP).

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These natural wonders of the volcanic island province of Camiguin, which were officially recognized as AHP in October last year, are the third AHP in Northern Mindanao, following the declarations of the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Bukidnon province in 2009 and Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park in Misamis Occidental in 2011.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has recognized 37 AHPs in Southeast Asia since 1984 when it named the first 11 protected areas in the region.

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A fact sheet from ACB, the secretariat for the AHP Program, described AHPs as “protected areas of high conservation importance, preserving in total a complete spectrum of representative ecosystems of the Asean region.”

“These areas are established to generate greater awareness, pride, appreciation, enjoyment and conservation of Asean’s rich natural heritage, through a regional network of representative protected areas,” it said.

Markers recognizing MTHNM as AHP have been installed at Sitio (sub-village) Itum in Barangay (village) Baylao here to recognize the areas’ importance to the country’s biodiversity.

During ceremonies at the Camiguin provincial convention center here, lawyer Roberto Oliva, ACB executive director, credited the Camiguin local government to its commitment to work for the declaration of MTHNM as AHP.

Oliva said with the declaration, Camiguin should expect technical assistance, information sharing and support from the international community to preserve the heritage park.

“My coming here demonstrates how serious we are in realizing your dreams in (preserving your natural resources)… The MTHNM will be the next wonder Asean park,” he said.

Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo said while his province is the second smallest in the country in terms of population and land area, this “paradise” is packed with natural wonders.

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“Camiguin is the perfect (example) of (the phrase) great things come in small packages,” Romualdo said, citing the province’s attractions.

Gov. Jurdin Jesus Romualdo described the AHP declaration as another feather in the Camiguin’s cap, which was the result of cooperation between officials and different groups to preserve the local environment.

Merlyn Dumalahay, provincial environment and natural resources officer (Penro) of Camiguin, said the declaration would boost not just the morale of Camiguinons but also improve tourist traffic as well.

These areas, she said, have view decks and other basic amenities for tourists, however, facilities should be improved and developed to attract more Filipino and foreign visitors to enjoy the heritage park.

“Having these areas declared as heritage (park) has given us the opportunity to ask for more funds from the national government to further develop them,” Dumalahay said.

The MTHNM was proclaimed as a protected area on March 9, 2004 through Presidential Proclamation No. 570.

The area is comprised of two mountains—Mt. Timpoong, which stands at 1,580 meters above sea level (masl), and the active volcano, Mt. Hibok-Hibok, at 1,200 masl.

The heritage park is home to endemic birds, rodents, amphibians, medicinal trees, dipterocarps, rattan and ferns. Among those documented thriving in the forests of MTHNM are the Camiguin hawk owl (Ninox leventis), Camiguin hanging parrot (Loriculus camiguinensis), Camiguin forest mouse (Apomys camiguinensis), Camiguin narrow-mouthed frog (oreophryne nana) and medicinal trees like Kalingag and Duguan.

While Camiguin, described as an island created by volcanoes, is the smallest province in Northern Mindanao with a land area of 29,187 hectares covering five towns, it is packed with natural resources and attractions like beaches, springs, verdant forests and rich agricultural land and marine life.

ACB, in a statement, said protected areas declared as AHPs benefit from the AHP Program through training and learning sessions in the form of knowledge sharing and exchange among AHP park managers.

AHPs, it said, receive technical assistance from the AHP secretariat, through ACB experts and network of partners.

“Being an AHP also increases the visibility of protected areas as ecotourism destinations and models for effective protected area management through the enhancement of the Communication, Education and Public Awareness program by ACB,” the statement said.

The other AHPs in the country are the Mt. Apo Natural Park and Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Mindanao; and Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park, Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Luzon. RAM

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TAGS: 8th Asean Heritage Park, Camiguin, Hibok-hibok, Timpoong
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