Five municipalities in southern Palawan have pledged a total of P2.5M to ensure continuous protection and conservation of what is considered as the largest protected area in the province, the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL).

During the 15th en banc meeting of the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of MMPL held in Puerto Princesa City on December 16, the local government units of Brooke’s Point, Quezon, Dr. Jose Rizal, Sofronio Española, and Bataraza each committed to allocate P500,000 from their respective funds to support forest protection activities and stricter enforcement of environmental laws in the main protected area and its buffer zone.

This was after reports from the Biodiversity Assessment and Monitoring System (BAMS) held in the area highlighted the urgency to step-up forest protection efforts which include procurement of equipment, supplies and materials, and augmentation of monitoring and patrol personnel.

At present, there are only three park rangers (one permanent, 2 contractual) under the Protected Area Management Office (PAMO) deployed to guard the vast area of MMPL, which measures 120, 457 hectares.

“Ideally, it should be one forest ranger per 500 hectares. For MMPL, we are in need of 240 more rangers to cover the entire area,” Protected Area Superintendent Mildred Suza explained.

The financial support from the LGUs is expected to address the inadequacy in the number of forest guards and the grant of other benefits for them.

DENR MIMAROPA Regional Executive Director Henry Adornado who serves as PAMB Chair stated that aside from regular compensation, the allocated funds could also provide the forest guards medical and accident insurance should unfortunate incidents happen while they are on patrol.

“The rangers’ job to protect Mt. Mantalingahan against poachers and other violators exposes them to serious threats and danger. They are constantly risking their lives every time they monitor the mountains. It’s about time we take action to ensure their safety and protection,” the director said.

Adornado added that a strong and adequate workforce leads to strengthened forest guardianship which is attributed to the concerted efforts of various stakeholders of MMPL.

RED Adornado commended Brooke’s Point Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano and Sofronio Española Mayor Marsito Acoy who were both present during the PAMB meeting, as well as Bataraza Mayor Abbraham Ibba, Rizal Mayor Otol Odi, and Quezon Mayor Joselito Ayala who all sent their representatives, for their relentless support and cooperation.

“Your efforts manifest your commitment to uphold what’s best for Mt. Mantalingahan and the people protecting it,” he expressed.

“We at the DENR are glad that our partnership with the LGU is cemented by our shared aspiration and duty to protect and conserve Mt. Mantalingahan, for us and the generations to come,” the director concluded.

The meeting, held at the Legend Hotel, was attended by other PAMBI Board Members including the punong barangays from the MMPL area, representatives from the academe, non-government organizations, National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), Philippine National Police, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), and other indigenous peoples groups.

Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape was declared a protected area by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 1815 dated June 23, 2009. It is included in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for its exceptional biodiversity and endemism. (With reports from the MMPL Protected Area Management Office) ###