Apayao

Apayao is Philippines’ 4th biosphere reserve

Iya Gozum

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Apayao is Philippines’ 4th biosphere reserve

LAST FRONTIER. A vast mountain range as seen from Barangay Eva in Calanasan, Apayao province.

Philippine Eagle Foundation

The Isnag people's ethnic tradition of preserving forest lands makes Apayao one of the 'learning places' around the world for biodiversity conservation

MANILA, Philippines – The United Nations has declared the province of Apayao, considered the last forest frontier in the mountainous Cordillera region in northern Luzon, as a biosphere reserve for its efforts to conserve and manage biodiversity.

At the heart of the recognition is lapat, the Isnag people’s indigenous system of forest conservation. It is the practice of turning a parcel of forest land and its natural resources off-limits when its Isnag owner dies.

Apayao becomes the Philippines’ fourth biosphere reserve, along with the provinces of Albay, Palawan, and Puerto Galera. There are now a total of 759 sites across 136 countries.

“The designation as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve means that areas in Apayao are now protected for biodiversity conservation,” said the provincial government of Apayao.

Biosphere reserves, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), are “learning places for sustainable development.”

“The new designations come at a pivotal moment for humanity, as it grapples with a global biodiversity crisis intertwined with climate disruption,” said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO director-general, in a statement on July 5.

Azoulay said biosphere reserves could help improve living conditions of indigenous peoples, as well as foster scientific research.

Apayao Governor Elias Bulut Jr. led the Philippine delegation during the 36th session of the International Coordinating Council of the Man and Biosphere Programme of UNESCO in Agadir, Morocco, where the announcement was made.

“This…marks another milestone not only for our beloved province, but also for our country [the] Philippines,” Bulut said in his acceptance speech.

The yApayaos Biosphere Reserve spans 3,960 square kilometers. It covers the upper and lower regions of the province, featuring peaks, plateaus, valleys, and the Apayao River.

UNESCO defined yApayaos as “a name that encompasses both the people and diverse flora and fauna living in the area,” including several ethnolinguistic groups and indigenous cultural communities.

Chart, Plot, Map
ZONE MAP. The biosphere reserve is home to the critically endangered Philippine eagle.
Home to the Philippine eagle

Apayao is also a refuge for the critically endangered species Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi).

The local government started to aspire for the inscription after the first active nest of the national bird was discovered in the province back in 2015.

For years, they worked together with the Philippine Eagle Foundation, the United States Forest Service, Forest Foundation Philippines, and San Roque Power Corporation.

“This solidifies the efforts of the provincial government of Apayao and partner agencies in conserving and managing the last forest frontier of the Cordillera, especially with UNESCO’s assistance,” the local government said in a post.

In April this year, female Philippine eagle Nariha Kabugao was released back into the forest lands of Apayao after a successful rehabilitation.

Other countries with newly declared biosphere reserves are Belgium, Gambia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Italy, Mongolia, Netherlands, South Korea, Slovenia, and Spain.

From Our Archives

Apayao: Where ethnic tradition is saving the Philippine Eagle

Apayao: Where ethnic tradition is saving the Philippine Eagle

– Rappler.com

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.