North Cotabato gov bats for stronger protection of Mt. Apo Natural Park
General Santos City (13 February) -- North Cotabato Governor Jesus Sacdalan will press both provincial and municipal governments to intensify efforts to safeguard Mt. Apo Natural Park, the highest mountain in the country and home of the endangered Philippine eagle.
He made the vow recently after signing as witness of an agreement between the Municipality of Magpet and the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Philippine Environmental Governance 2 Project or EcoGov2.
Magpet is one of three local governments in North Cotabato with jurisdiction over the last remaining forest cover of the park. Under the agreement, the USAID project will help Magpet come up with a sound forest land use plan or FLUP. Once completed, this FLUP will guide Magpet officials on how to better manage, protect, and invest in its forest resources. Just as important, the FLUP will give Magpet an effective tool to resolve and harmonize conflicting land uses within the Park.
Some 4, 354 hectares of Magpet's timberland lie within the national park. With Makilala town and Kidapawan City having previously completed their FLUPs, also with EcoGov assistance, the entire North Cotabato portion of the Park will now be protected. This comprises a total of 17,775 hectares. EcoGov is helping the three LGUs improve the management of the area, in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Governor Sacdalan is especially concerned about protecting both biodiversity and the rights of indigenous peoples in Mt. Apo. Recognized by the United Nations and the ASEAN as a reserve and heritage site, Mt. Apo is a treasure trove of biodiversity: 800 floral species, 272 bird species (40% of them endemic), 53 mammal species (including the Philippine brown deer, tudaya giant rat, tarsier, and the tree shrew), and 53 species of amphibians and reptiles.
Six indigenous groups live in Mt. Apo, including the Manobos, Bagobo, Ubos, Atas, K'lagans, and the Tagacaolo. The park has eight major watersheds that feed into 19 major rivers and 21 creeks. These supply the domestic and industrial water needs of surrounding communities, including major urban areas not just in North Cotabato but also in Davao del Sur.
"It's about time that the Provincial Government gives support to our Municipal LGUs in terms of protecting and conserving Mt. Apo Natural Park," said Governor Sacdalan. "It's our lifeline and it's our commitment to preserve what remains of Mt. Apo, including both the natural and cultural resources in the area."
Governor Sacdalan took advantage of the Magpet signing ceremony to hold a dialogue with government and non-government officials, including the USAID/EcoGov2 Project, to discuss various issues and problems concerning the management of Mt. Apo Natural Park, especially its forest areas.
Among the key issues was the role indigenous groups could play in protecting the park from illegal cutting activities. A major recommendation was creating a Protected Area Management Board for Region 12 with the provincial and local government units at the helm. This will make the delivery of technical and financial assistance to upland communities faster and easier.
Participating national government agencies in the dialogue were the DENR Region 12, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, and the Department of Agrarian Reform. Local government officials included those from Kidapawan City, Makilala Municipality, and Magpet Municipality. The non-government sector was represented by Mt. Apo Foundation Incorporated. (USAID/EcoGov/PIA SarGen) [top]