Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo recently established the 120,457-hectare Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape on the island of Palawan, after more than five years of investment and effort on the part of Conservation International-Philippines, the Global Conservation Fund (GCF), the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and other partners.
Mount Mantalingahan is the highest peak along the central spine of mountains in southern Palawan. The largely forested mountain range is critical for providing ecosystem services—including water, soil conservation, flood control and carbon sequestration—that benefit local communities. These ecosystem services have an estimated total economic value of $5.5 billion. The watersheds within the new protected area are particularly valuable to the lowland agricultural economy.
Safeguarding the 33 watersheds in the area are also crucial to the integrity and health of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and the marine ecosystems, particularly along the South China Sea on the west and the Sulu Sea on the eastern flanks of Palawan where these watersheds drain. Both seas have been declared as priority seascapes of the Philippines by President Arroyo during the Coral Triangle Initiative Leaders’ Summit in May.
The creation of the new protected area marks a 30 percent increase in the area of Palawan under formal protection and conservation.
“We believe that Mt. Mantalingahan has finally received the recognition and protection that it deserves,” said Romeo B. Trono, executive director of CI-Philippines. “Its proclamation as protected area is a very important step in ensuring the well-being not only of the rich biological resources, but more importantly, the well-being of the people of Palawan.”
Located in the territorial jurisdiction of Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, Quezon, Rizal and Sofronio Espanola, the new protected area is home to indigenous Palaw’ans. It is also of high biodiversity importance, being one of the 17 terrestrial Key Biodiversity Areas and one of 11 important bird areas in Palawan, as well as one of only 10 sites of the Alliance for Zero Extinction—sites where species are in imminent danger of disappearing—in the Philippines.
Together, GCF and CEPF supported CI-Philippines and partners to build broad consensus for protecting the area, including development of a management plan and business plan for the area.
Trono said a wide range of stakeholders in the region endorsed the establishment of Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, and the process to create the protected area led to collaboration among local government units, national government agencies and nongovernmental organizations. The experience may open new opportunities for collaborative work among institutions in achieving conservation goals in Palawan, Trono said.