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9 protected areas for endangered wildlife declared

MANILA, Philippines—They may not be cool, but rats, bats and frogs are facing extinction and causing concern among environmentalists.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Tuesday unveiled a conservation program that protects the habitats of these threatened creatures from invasive human activities and development.

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The DENR said in a statement it had expanded the protected areas to include nine sites that are home to endangered and rare flora and fauna, which include bats, cloud rats and forest frogs.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the program, called the New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project (NCAPP), would encourage sustainable development and conserve biodiversity with the help of communities and local governments.

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The nine areas are Balbalan-Balbalasang National Park in the Cordillera; Zambales Mountains in Zambales-Tarlac area; Mounts Irid Angelo and Binuang in Rizal, Bulacan and Quezon; Polilio Group of Islands in Quezon; Mounts Iglit-Baco National Park in Mindoro; Mt. Nug-as Lantoy in Cebu; Mt. Nacolod in Southern Leyte; Mt. Hilong-hilong in Agusan-Surigao; and Bongao Peak in Tawi-Tawi Island.

According to the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), many of the country’s biologically rich areas are still unprotected from extractive activities.

“Forest areas are still facing destruction due to indiscriminate logging, increasing population, mining, infrastructure development and conflicting land uses,” the PAWB said.

Key biodiversity areas

By placing these sites under protection, the DENR said environment laws would be strictly implemented and monitored with the help of the communities and the local government to ensure that the plants and animals are secured from invasive and disruptive practices.

PAWB Director Mundita Lim said these nine areas were chosen because “they are key biodiversity areas.”

For instance, the Balbalan-Balbalasang National Park hosts a wide variety of frogs and amphibians. Mounts Iglit-Baco in Mindoro, aside from being the home of Mangyans, is also the stamping ground of the elusive tamaraw.

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The Zambales mountain range is the habitat of the cloud rat, a species native to the Philippines and which is considered prey by large birds and fowl. The cloud rat may be revolting, but without it, the ecosystem of the Zambales mountains would be in disarray.

“These are not charismatic animals, but their disappearance will affect the ecosystem,” Lim said in an interview.

Dwindling forest frogs

Polilio Island has a rare monitor lizard and an endemic forest frog, which means it cannot be found anywhere else.

Polilio Councilor Noel Santoalla said the number of forest frogs in the area had dwindled. “We need more of them because they eat pests,” he said.

Lim also noted that these places also had a variety of flora and trees vital to the country’s ecological balance.

The Zambales mountain range harbors a newly discovered species of Rafflesia, which is the largest floral species in the world.

These nine sites also have communities living near them who must be taught how to protect the land and species. “We want to capacitate the indigenous people to manage it sustainably,” she said.

The Philippines has 238 protected areas covering 3.8 million hectares, the PAWB said.

The five-year NCAPP, which is funded by the United Nations Development Program and Global Environmental Facility, is part of the government’s efforts to celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity observed every 22nd day of May.

The United Nations has declared 2011 as International Year of Forests.

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TAGS: conservation program, DENR, Endangered wildlife, Environmental Issues, extinction
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