Establishment of Mt. Apo wildlife rescue, conservation center pushed

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 Nov) – Several stakeholders in Mindanao pushed for the establishment of a Mount Apo Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center to strengthen conservation efforts as they hope to have Mount Apo included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Mountaineers gather their gear near the peak of Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak. MindaNews file photo by JULES L. BENITEZ

In the commitment of support signed by Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) secretary Maria Belen S. Acosta, together with the mayors of different local government units in Davao and Soccsksargen, last Wednesday but a copy of which was forwarded to MindaNews on Thursday, the center is envisioned to become the “convergence point” of all rescue and conservation activities on Mount Apo.

It said the center will take the lead in protecting the remaining pockets of wildlife around Mount Apo through collaborative rescue, conservation and breeding efforts, development and proper use of environment and natural resources, including those in the reservation, watershed areas, and land of public domain within the natural park.

Joey Remicilla, MinDA’s Director IV for policy, planning and development office, said the center may need a land area of at least 50 hectares within the natural park but added that the Department of Environment Natural Resources has 100 hectares where the center can be established.

The details of the project, including how much budget it may require, have yet to be finalized.

He also said commitments of the different LGUs located around Mount Apo are needed to save the natural park, including its endemic and endangered species, from decimation due to the encroachment of human activities.

In 2009, the DENR submitted Mount Apo for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage Site but it was removed from its list of tentative sites as it suffered dramatic physical changes.

Upon signing of the commitment of support, the LGUs hope that the “augmented efforts will hopefully reintroduce the Mount Apo Park Protected Landscape as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites shortlist, aside from its ASEAN heritage site status.”

Under Republic Act No. 9237, Mount Apo Natural Park (MANP) was declared as a protected area “due to its great significance as a center for biodiversity and endemism of rare species in Mindanao, harboring one of the highest land-based biological diversity in terms of flora and fauna per unit area.”

Remicilla said the technical working group would draft policies, including regulations on hunting and climbing seasons on Mount Apo, the country’s highest peak.

Shirley Uy, the Deputy Protected Area Superintendent of the Mt. Apo Natural Park-Protected Area Management Office (MANP-SubPAMB), added that the members of the indigenous people are allowed to hunt animals, for instance, the warty pigs for their own consumption.

But she added that hunting season has yet to be defined as the IP communities have yet to draft their ancestral domains sustainable development and protection plan that would harmonize the solution to this problem.

“Hunting for IPs is not for commercial purposes but for their own consumption only,” Uy added.

She added the natural park is also the home of the majestic Philippine eagle.

She said the recent sightings of the raptors are a good sign that there is vegetation on Mount Apo but added that the eagles were starting to prey on the domestic animals like dogs in the nearby communities, indicating that their source of food is becoming scarce. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)