DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 July) – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is pushing for the inclusion of the Mount Hamiguitan Wildlife Sanctuary as an Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Heritage Park, an official of the agency said.
Speaking during Tuesday’s Davao Business Forum at Dermpath, SM Ecoland, Ruel Colong, DENR protected area supervisor for the mountain range, said the agency has submitted to the ASEAN committee in charge of determining the list of heritage parks last May.
Colong said the list updates the data the agency submitted to make the area a part of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) world heritage list.
“There are 1,403 species listed in the updated list,” Colong said, adding that Mt. Hamiguitan used to have around 1,380 species listed in its biodiversity portfolio in 2012.
With boundaries shared by the municipalities of Governor Generoso and San Isidro and the City of Mati in Davao Oriental, Mt. Hamiguitan was declared a world heritage site by the UNESCO last month.
The DENR identified threats to the area as the unregulated gathering of minor forest products, timber poaching, wildlife poaching, visitor and tourism pressures, littering, lack of alternative livelihood activities, as well as limited resources for effective protected area management.
Aside from these are the existence of mining tenements in the protected area, as well as the effects of industrialization of adjacent areas that impair the hydrologic cycle and biodiversity.
According to an Executive Summary document provided by the DENR, the property has 957 plant species and 423 animal species.
These include “723 angiosperms, 27 conifers, 164 ferns and allies, 17 mosses, 13 liverworts, 13 lichens, and an undetermined number of fungi species.”
The document also lists species of “15 non-flying mammals, 11 flying mammals, 108 birds, 33 reptiles, 18 frogs, 142 butterflies, 31 dragonflies and damselflies, 46 spiders, four earth worms, and 15 nematodes.”
The updated biodiversity package lists 963 floral species and 440 animal species, among these 729 angiosperms, 27 gymnosperms, 151 ferns, 13 fern allies, 17 mosses, 13 liverworts, 13 lichens, 15 non-volant mammals, 11 volant mammals, 108 avi-fauna, 33 reptiles, 18 frogs, 142 butterflies, 31 odonata, 46 spiders, 4 earthworms, 15 nematodes, 17 fish.
Threatened species include rare and endemic ornamental plants, ferns, pitcher plants, as well as 124 animals endemic in the Philippines and 39 species endemic in Mindanao.
Seven species of animals are endemic only to the area.
Two species of animals are critically endangered, with six others endangered and 21 vulnerable.
Some 113 species are rare, and six others have been discovered to be new species.
According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Science and management, anthropogenic activities such as the creation of roads as well as mining activities contribute to environmental stress, leading to a disturbance of distribution among species such as birds.
The study suggests that there was a correlation between industrialization to the diversity, abundance and endemism of species found in the area, depending on elevation and disturbances to their habitat.
Fritzie Camino, in a phone interview Tuesday, said there was a higher incidence of biodiversity protection in the municipality of San Isidro, compared with the other jurisdictions such as Mati City.
Camino was among the proponents of the study titled “Avifaunal assemblage in Mt. Hamiguitan, Davao Oriental.”
“Continuing operations of logging and mining in … habitats may strongly lead these documented and undiscovered species to local eventually to global extinction,” the study concluded.
Colong said studies on birds, spiders, dragonflies and damselflies, Philippine Eagles, as well as other species, contributed greatly in the declaration of the heritage site by the UNESCO.