Bataan forests candidate for ASEAN Heritage Parks list; may receive millions of pesos in grants

    To protect the virgin forests of the province, then Governor and now Congressman of Bataan 2nd District Enrique “Tet” Garcia had purchased a helicopter to watch over the remaining forested areas and water shed of Bataan. The helicopter is also being used in aerial seedlings into the mountains.

   Governor Abet S. Garcia, right after his assumption as Chief Executive of Bataan, had directed the Environment and Natural Resources Office (ENRO), with the assistance of the provincial DENR personnel, to further enrich the remaining forested areas of the province through massive reforestation and protection from illegal poaching and logging.

   Gov. Garcia wanted that his order be fully enforced no matter whose toes they will step on, following reports in the past that there were influential individuals who were engaged in illegal logging.

    Aside from the two forested areas, the DENR said that they are also eyeing the inclusion of the 2,177 hectare-Biak Na Bato National Park in Bulacan and 3,715 hectare-Mt. Arayat National Park in Pampanga into the list of Heritage Parks of ASEAN.

   “Once approved, these protected areas shall receive international funding from ASEAN and European countries to further promote their conservation and protection,” said Regional Director Milla Jr. in a press statement.

   Up to 150,000 Euros or P9 million await each forest that makes it to the list once it passes the criteria set by the Los Banos-based ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB), which serves as secretariat of the program.

   “The Philippines is one of the 18 mega diverse countries in the world, but it is also one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. We can reverse this trend by promoting greater public awareness and cooperation in the protection and conservation of our protected areas,” Milla added.

   Protected areas are defined as those set aside by the government for their unique physical and biological significance, managed to enhance biological diversity, and protected against destructive human exploitation.

   According to DENR list, Central Luzon has 35 protected areas covering a total of 341,430 hectares, but did not say if some of these areas are also candidates for the Heritage Park list.

   Criteria to make it to the list include being ecologically complete and represent the different ecosystems; it is documented as a conservation area, and has an approved management plan.

   To date, there are 33 declared ASEAN Heritage Parks. Of these, five are found in the country namely Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Bukidnon; Mt. Apo Natural Park in Davao; Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park in Mindoro; Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park in Misamis Occidental and Mt. Makiling Nature Reserve in Laguna.

   Apart from the Philippines, other ASEAN member-states are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.

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