lying over Ozamiz City in Misamis Occidental, one cannot help but see a massive mountain range that is interestingly made of forested crests, valleys and lakes. This is the Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park (MMRNP), which spans the provinces of Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur.
On August 4, 2012, the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) designated the MMRNP as an ASEAN Heritage Park (AHP). The ACB defines AHPs as “protected areas of high conservation importance, preserving in total a complete spectrum of representative ecosystems of the ASEAN region.” The ACB establishes AHPs to generate greater awareness, pride, appreciation, enjoyment and conservation of the ASEAN region’s rich natural heritage through a regional network of protected areas.
Quick MMRNP facts by the numbers
The total number of AHPs in the country, of which the latest to be declared was the MMRNP. The other three are the Mt. Apo Natural Park in Davao; the Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park in Mindoro; and the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Bukidnon.
||The total number of AHPs across the 10 ASEAN member countries – Brunei and Laos have one each; Singapore and Cambodia both have two; each of Indonesia and Malaysia have three; Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines all have four; and Myanmar has six.
||The number of important legislations pertaining to MMRNP. The first was Republic Act No. 6266 promulgated in 1971, establishing Mt. Malindang National Park. The second was Proclamation No. 228 issued in 2002 which reclassified and renamed the park as the Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park, pursuant to the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act.
||In hectares, the total land area of the entire MMRNP. This consists of a 34,694-hectare core zone and 18,334 hectares of buffer zone.
||The number of major peaks within the MMRNP, the highest of which is Mt. Malindang (2,404 meters) and Mt. Ampiro as the lowest (1,532 meters).
||In hectares, the area of the crater lake known as Lake Duminagat which, along with two other large sunken areas measuring more than 20 hectares, with their cinder cones, distribution of volcanic rocks, pyroclastic deposits and two sulphuric hot springs, indicate the volcanic history of MMRNP.
||The number of major habitats in MMRNP, namely grassland, dipterocarp forest, lower montane forest, upland wetland, and mossy and associated forest.
||Rivers, streams and numerous creeks found on MMRNP that provide potable water supply to Misamis Occidental and portions of Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga del Norte.
||The number of indigenous people who have an ancestral claim on Mt. Malindang, as recognized by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. This tribe is known as the Subanen (pronounced Suban-on). The Subanos derive their name from the Visayan word suba which literally means river. The tribe makes up 75 per cent of the park’s occupants, while the rest are tenured migrants.
||The total number of plant species on Mt. Malindang, according to an inventory completed in 2004. Among those recorded were 873 angiosperms, 20 gymnosperms, 280 pterodophytes, 85 byrophytes, and 25 lichen species. Some of these are endemic and threatened with extinction, such as the rattan species Calamus merrilii and some dipterocarp species.
||The number of terrestrial vertebrates recorded on MMRNP, according to the same inventory. This number includes 26 species of amphibians, 33 reptiles, 162 birds and 36 mammals. Some of these species are considered threatened, such as the Philippine deer, Philippine tarsier and the endangered Philippine eagle.
Part of the management plan for the MMRNP encourages ecotourism activities in the area. It is already popular among mountaineers, trekkers and nature-lovers. A privately-owned highland park in the Tangub City area offers eco-adventure activities such as zipline (supposedly the longest in Asia), horseback riding and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) ride.
During the launching of the MMRNP as an AHP in August 2012, representatives of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) and local government officials led by Tangub City Mayor Philip Tan broke ground at the proposed site of the MMRNP Visitors’ Center. The Center would serve park visitors as an information site featuring, among others, a botanical garden showcasing fresh produce locally harvested from MMRNP. A view deck would offer fantastic vistas of Misamis Occidental, and could provide opportunity to catch a glimpse of the majestic Philippine Eagle.
The designation of the MMRNP as an AHP was the fruit of the collaborative efforts of the PAWB and the Northern Mindanao office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), and the local government units headed by Misamis Occidental Governor Herminia Ramiro, Oroquieta City Mayor Jason Almonte, and Tan.
The designation means the MMRNP has passed the ACB’s stringent criteria. Among others, it is ecologically complete, that is, different ecosystems are represented; its conservation is “highly important”; it is documented as a conservation area; and has an approved management plan.
The MMRNP, being home not only to the Subanen tribe but also to tenured migrants, is primarily vulnerable to illegal logging, hunting, kaingin agriculture, and a host of other threats brought about by human encroachment. The development of the area to allow eco-tourism activities, including infrastructure, should therefore be closely monitored so as to ensure that all are sustainable and follow the provisions of the management plan.
DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje sums it up clearly as he reminds the public that proclaiming a conservation site serves a two-fold purpose: to maintain the beauty and survival of all biodiversity therein, and ensure the survival of the communities that depend on them.
“Designating the MMRNP as a heritage site elevates its status above all other conservation sites,” he explained. “There is deeper focus on the economic and ecological value of all resources within the park. There is also a need to consider various conservation techniques, methodologies or schools of thought. But the end goal is the same: to retain, and even improve, the MMRNP as our natural legacy for future generations.”