Davao’s Mt Hamiguitan named UNESCO World Heritage site

Pia Ranada
It is the 6th Philippine site to join the list and the first Philippine mountain range

NEW WORLD TREASURE. With the recent inclusion of Mount Hamiguitan in the list, the Philippines now boasts 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Photo from Wikipedia

MANILA, Philippines – A mountain range in Davao Oriental now claims a coveted spot in the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List.

Delegates of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee voted to grant the status to Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary during the committee’s 38th Session on Monday, June 23 in Doha, Qatar.

It is one of 26 new sites added to the list this year, including the ancient Inca road network Qhapaq Nan and the historic cave Grotte Chauvet in France. 

The more than 16,000-hectare mountain range runs from north to south along the Pujada Peninsula in the Eastern Mindanao Biodiversity Corridor. Its peak is more than 1,600 meters above sea level.

This protected area boasts the largest “pygmy forest,” a field of bonsai trees estimated to be around 100 years old. This unique forest occupies around 225 hectares of the sanctuary.

The description in the UNESCO World Heritage List page reads, “The property showcases terrestrial and aquatic habitats at different elevations, and includes threatened and endemic flora and fauna species, 8 of which are found only at Mount Hamiguitan.”

The mountain is home to the critically-endangered Philippine Eagle and Philippine Cockatoo.  

From its cliffs grow 338 species of majestic dipterocarp trees, 462 species of plants, mossy forests and closed canopy forests. 

According to Pinoy mountaineer Gideon Lasco, the mountain range also features a “Tinagong Dagat” (hidden sea), a lake that mysteriously experiences high tide and low tide.

‘Global validation’

What does the recognition mean for the Philippines and for the management of Mount Hamiguitan?

PYGMY WONDER. These small trees grow in profusion in Mount Hamiguitan's 'pygmy forest.' Photo from Wikipedia“We are very happy about it. It’s another global validation of our rich biodiversity and highlights our efforts in managing our Protected Areas,” Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) chief Theresa Mundita Lim told Rappler.

Augusto Villalon, the technical representative of the Philippines to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee told Rappler that no cash reward accompanies the citation.

“Inscription goes beyond prestige. It signifies that the site is among the select in the world that is of global significance. Inscription commits the host country to continue and improve the conservation and maintenance of the site.”

The sanctuary is managed by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and the BMB both under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). 

Lim said the new title is bound to strengthen the motivation of different stakeholders to protect the mountain range.

“The communities around Mt Hamiguitan should take pride in this new recognition. It inspires us to strengthen efforts to keep it protected and preserve the very reasons why it has been now named a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” she told Rappler.

Mount Hamiguitan is the 6th site in the Philippines and the country’s first mountain range to be included in the World Heritage List. (READ: Celebrating PH’s World Heritage sites)

The other 5 are a group of Baroque churches, the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Cordillera rice terraces, the historic town of Vigan, and the Puerto Princesa Underground River. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.