DENR 11 to seek ASEAN’s help to rehab, conserve and protect Mt. Apo

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 April) — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Davao Region is planning to seek help from the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB) for funding support for the rehabilitation, conservation, and protection efforts of the Mt. Apo after it suffered from massive fire since March 26, 2016.

DENR 11 assistant regional director Felix Alicer, in press conference on Friday, said there might be a possibility that the country’s highest peak will get ACB support, although they have yet to lay out concrete action plans after the assessment and ground verification works to be conducted next week, from April 18 to 22, 2016.

“The ACB has the linkages and the networks. That’s one good thing about it. They have also the funding for capacity-building,” he said.

The country’s highest peak was declared a heritage park through the 1984 Declaration on Heritage Parks and Reserves, he said.

The ACB is an intergovernemntal organization established in 2005 by 10 ASEAN member countries – Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

In a press conference during the declaration of Mt. Hamiguitan as Asean Heritage Park at the Waterfront Insular Hotel on Thursday, lawyer Genalyn Balon-Soriano, a representative from the ACB, said it is a shared natural heritage among ASEAN members once a protected area is declared a heritage park,

“One of our key thrusts is to assist the ASEAN member states in effectively managing protected areas through the Asean Heritage (AHP) Programme,” she said.

She said their mission is to facilitate and coordinate biodiversity conservation efforts in ASEAN region that are aligned with the three pillars of the Convention on Biological Diversity on conservation, sustainable use, and fair and equitable sharing of benefits.

The ACB was authorized by the ASEAN member states to act as the secretariat of the AHP program by assisting countries in the region “to enhance and strengthen the administrative and management capacity of AHP managers and promote the AHPs.”

“The AHP Programme underlines the need for greater collaboration for biodiversity in ASEAN, partciularly since the region provides habitats for some of the world’s enigmatic species and harbors a globally wealth of biodiversity,” she added.

In a press release, heritage parks receive technical assistance from the AHP secretariat, through ACB experts and network of partners.

Mt. Apo is among eight declared as heritage parks in the Philippines. The others are Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park in Occidental Mindoro, Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Bukidon Province, Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park in Misamis Occidental, Mt. Makiling Nature Reserve in Laguna, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan, Mt. Timpoong-Hibok-Hibok Natural Monument in Camiguin, and the latest Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental.

Alicer said that the DENR central office has also vowed to provide funds for the rehabilitation and conservation of Mt. Apo.

He added that the assessment and ground verification teams will be dispatched to Mt. Apo to determine the extent of damage and if they can declare a fire out.

The teams will be composed of Bureau of Fire Protection, Provincial and Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils, and local government units (LGUs).

The Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational and Assessment of Hazards (NOAH) of the Department of Science and Technology will conduct next week a thorough thermal scanning of the affected portions of Mt. Apo  to determine if there’s any minor fire, according to Alicer.

Until the completion of the assessment results, Alicer said, only then they can map out plans what steps to take for the rehabilitation efforts but it may include “naturally assisted regeneration” since Mt. Apo’s terrain is difficult for tree planting activities and most of the damaged portions are grasslands.

In his presentation, Project NOAH researcher Rodrigo Eco said no active fire has been seen since Friday morning. He said affected areas were placed at 111 hectares.

On March 31 or five days after the fire that started at the peak, the Mt. Apo Natural Park-Protected Area Management Board approved a resolution, closing indefinitely Mt. Apo indefinitely in all six trails in Kidapawan, Makilala, and Magpet in North Cotabato, Digos, Sta. Cruz, and Bansalan in Davao del Sur. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)