Tubbataha, Mt Hamiguitan 'most treasured' parks in ASEAN
MANILA, Philippines – Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines have now also been recognized as "most treasured parks" in Southeast Asia.
The nominations of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan and Mt Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental to the ASEAN Heritage Parks List were approved last October during a gathering of environmental ministers of ASEAN countries.
The addition brings the number of Philippine natural parks in the list of ASEAN Heritage Parks to 7. Aside from the recently nominated sites, these parks are:
- Mt Apo Natural Park
- Mt Kitanglad Range Natural Park
- Mt Makiling Forest Reserve
- Mts Iglit-Baco National Park
- Mt Malindang Range Natural Park
The two nominations also bring the total number of ASEAN Heritage Parks to 35.
The recognition only cements the Philippines' standing among the most ecologically-rich nations in the world, said Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.
"Definitely, it will strengthen the protection of the areas thus ensuring conservation of our biodiversity and natural habitats. They are natural monuments of regional and global importance," he told Rappler on Monday, November 17.
Theresa Mundita Lim of the Biodiversity Management Bureau under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said that it also puts healthy pressure on the government and citizens to protect these treasures.
"That should also pose as a challenge to us to 'better our best' to maintain the state of biodiversity in these areas so it can continue to benefit the Philippines as ecotourism areas as well as in providing ecosystem services such as water and food security," she told Rappler.
The two natural parks have already been enjoying recognition as UNESCO World Heritage Sites before the ASEAN nomination.
Tubbataha Reefs has long been celebrated by divers and marine biologists as the "Serengeti of the sea" because of the immense number of marine species in its clear waters. It joined the World Heritage List in 1993.
Mt Hamiguitan is famous for its 200-hectare "pygmy forest" and is home to hundreds of endemic flora and fauna. The mountain is home to the critically-endangered Philippine Eagle and Philippine Cockatoo. It was inscribed into the World Heritage List just last June. – Rappler.com