Stronger protection for Mt. Apo sought

Magpet is one of three local governments in North Cotabato with jurisdiction over the last remaining forest cover of the park. The other two are Makilala town and Kidapawan City, which earlier agreed to help protect Mt. Apo as it completed its sound forest land use plan, or FLUP, with the help of  EcoGov2.

Gov. Jesus Sacdalan himself vowed to push the provincial and municipal governments to intensify efforts to safeguard Mt. Apo Natural Park, home of the endangered Philippine eagle.

He made the vow after signing as witness of an agreement between the Magpet LGU and USAID, wherein the latter will help Magpet come up with an FLUP. Once completed, this FLUP will guide Magpet officials on how to better manage, protect, and invest in its forest resources

Magpet has 4,354 hectares of timberland within the national park. The entire province of North Cotabato has a total land area of 17,775 hectares within Mt. Apo Natural Park.

Sacdalan said he is concerned about protecting both biodiversity and the rights of indigenous peoples in Mt. Apo, which is considered as a treasure trove of biodiversity with 800 floral species, 272 bird species (40 percent of them endemic), 53 mammal species (including the Philippine brown deer, tudaya giant rat, tarsier, and the tree shrew), and 53 species of amphibians and reptiles.

Six Lumad groups — the Manobos, Bagobo, Ubos, Atas, K'lagans, and the Tagacaolo — live in Mt. Apo. The park has eight major watershed areas that feed into 19 major rivers and 21 creeks. These supply the domestic and industrial water needs of surrounding communities.

"It's about time that the provincial government give support to our municipal LGUs
in terms of protecting and conserving Mt. Apo Natural Park," Sacdalan said. "It's our lifeline and it's our commitment to preserve what remains of Mt. Apo, including both the natural and cultural resources in the area."

Aside from the LGUs, national government agencies helping in the protection of Mt. Apo include the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 12, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, and the Department of Agrarian Reform. A non-governmental organization, the Mt. Apo Foundation, Inc., is also helping out. (MindaNews)