DENR honors best managed protected areas

A total of seven natural parks, led by Bukidnon's Mount Kitanglad Range, have been recognized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) during the first-ever Protected Area Awards and Recognition (PAR) held in Tagaytay City on October 1.

Awards were presented to protected area managers and staff for their "impressive efforts, initiatives and innovative practices" in the management of protected areas, DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said.

“We would especially like to showcase success stories in protected area management and provide incentives for those behind them," the environment chief said. "This way, we raise the bar on effective management practices, heighten awareness on the value of our protected areas and therefore advocate for their support from other sectors."

The PAR is a project of the DENR's Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau. The awarding coincided with the 4th ASEAN Heritage Parks Conference that the country is hosting for the first time in Tagaytay City.

The four-day event, which runs from October 1-4, gathers together some 300 delegates from member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in a bid to strengthen regional cooperation in developing strategies to effectively manage protected areas of high conservation importance.

Entries to the PAR were earlier selected and evaluated by a review team from the DENR’s development partners, including the World Wide Fund-Philippines, Foundation for Philippine Environment, Tanggol Kalikasan, and Conservation International-Philippines, and judged by an independent jury.

Awards were distributed in different categories, each recognizing various aspects of protected area management.

Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Bukidnon won the most awards, having been chosen in three categories, namely “Engagement with Indigenous Peoples/Local Communities," "Institutional Organization/Active PAMB (Protected Area Management Board)," and "Actual Bio-Physical Improvements."

The Taal Volcano Protected Landscape, which straddles 13 towns and three cities across the provinces of Batangas and Cavite in Southern Luzon, won the award for the “Law Enforcement” category. This category recognizes successful action against violators of relevant environmental laws, considered the most challenging and dangerous activity in protected area management.

The “Sustainable/Innovative Financing” award went to Apo Island Protected Landscape/Seascape off Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental. This category hails managers who have been able to sustain operations despite limited financial support from government, whether through outside sourcing or income generation.

Northern Luzon’s Mt. Pulag National Park, a popular destination for mountain trekkers, got the award under the “Impacts on Local Communities” category for putting in place mechanisms that consider the improvement of those living within and adjacent to the protected site through sustainable and biodiversity-friendly interventions.

For the “Partnership” category, the Mts. Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape in Laguna and Quezon provinces was awarded for its collaborative efforts with local government units (LGUs); Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape in Palawan was cited for its partnership with civil society organizations; while the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, also in Palawan, was recognized for its partnership with other government agencies.

The awards were received by the respective DENR officials, Protected Area Superintendent, and representatives from the PAMB and the LGU concerned.

Earlier, Paje said the Philippines had already made “significant strides in conserving biodiversity and promoting sustainable development” since the passage of Republic Act No. 7586, also known as the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992.

Of the 240 marine and terrestrial protected areas established over 5.4 million hectares from the time the law was enacted, 89 are already able to finance their own activities through revenue generation, 36 have their own management plans, five have their boundaries fully demarcated, while 86 have their respective boundaries delineated.

Discoveries of new species within protected areas have also been recorded and recognized by the global scientific community, indicating effective management which allows such organisms to thrive.