The Eastern Mindanao Corridor contains one of the largest remaining blocks of tropical lowland rainforest in the Philippines. The region has nearly 70 threatened and over a hundred endemic species of plants and animals. Numerous rare and endemic species, including the majestic Philippine eagle, make their homes in the forests of Eastern Mindanao. This lush, mountainous region is also home to the highest peak in the Philippines, Mount. Apo, a volcanic mountain which is also home of the indigenous Lumad tribe. Mount Apo is also a national park that provides habitat for numerous, rare and unique birds.
The Philippines’ Muslim population lives primarily in Mindanao, including the many indigenous groups that are known collectively as the Lumad tribe. Unfortunately, however, the island also has a long history of sectarian and political conflicts which have harmed local communities and led to increased degradation of natural resources.
Eastern Mindanao has been dubbed the “timber and mining corridor of the Philippines” and these operations constitute the largest threats to the area’s biodiversity. Many permits for mining operations or explorations cover declared protected areas and watershed forest reserves. Industrial waste and mine tailings are being dumped in rivers, causing severe pollution and siltation of watersheds. Most of Eastern Mindanao’s remaining rainforest is currently under logging concessions, leading to loss of forest cover and consequent soil erosion and sedimentation of rivers. Commercial logging is also accompanied by the development of industrial tree and forest plantations, such as oil palm and bamboo plantations. These operations threaten biodiversity, as they replace native species and alter natural ecological processes.
CI's work in the Eastern Mindanao Corridor in 2005, with the goal of conserving the area’s globally significant biodiversity through the establishment of new protected areas, such as the proposed Mount Hilong-Hilong Range Protected Landscape, and the improved management of existing protected areas such as the Agusan Marsh and Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary.
CI relies on a participatory, bottom-up approach to conservation in Eastern Mindanao, where we help build the capacity of the local government, local NGOs and local communities to manage their natural resources appropriately.
Mt. Hilong-hilong Range contains one of the few remaining old growth or primary forest in the Philippines. It is considered as one of the priority conservation areas in the Philippines and a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) in Eastern Mindanao.
Mt Hilong-hilong Range represents the northern section of a long stretch of mountains from north to south of eastern Mindanao. Mt Hilong-hilong is said to contain the largest block of the country's remaining dipterocarp forests. It is home to at least 31 globally threatened vertebrates and 17 globally threatened plants. This threatened wildlife includes the Philippine Eagle, the country's national bird, and “Magkono” or the Philippine iron wood.
Agriculture is the main income source at Mt. Hilong-hilong. The major products are coconut, rice, corn, abaca, rubber, and other high value commercial crops namely coffee, banana, and exotic fruits. At the eastern side of the range, coastal communities rely on fishing. Forestry and mining also contribute revenues and employment.
Slash-and-burn farming, timber poaching, and other forms of illegal logging are major threats to wildlife habitats. Indirectly, increasing population contributes to forest loss as more people in the uplands results to more forest clearing for agriculture. Irresponsible logging and mining practices are threats as well. Because the mountain range is full of minerals, mining must be carefully implemented and should be coupled with effective mitigation techniques especially in ecologically sensitive sites. Forms of sustainable logging such as the IFMA and CBFMA, based on recent experiences, can be a threat as well if current efforts on monitoring are not improved.
Currently, CI-P is providing technical assistance to Surigao Economic Development Foundation Inc, a local NGO based in Surigao City, in the implementation of the New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project supported by UNDP-GEF and DENR-PAWB.
Agusan Marsh is one of the country’s most ecologically significant wetland areas, holding nearly 15 percent of the nation’s fresh water resources. It is located in the middle of the Agusan River Basin, the Philippines’ largest river basin. Its protected area status was established in October 1996 through Proclamation 913, which declared the area as Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary. In 1999, it was included in the Ramsar list of Wetlands of International Importance, one of only four Ramsar sites in the country.
The marsh is one of the largest and most important wetlands in the Philippines. It is important in supplying water for irrigation, acting as a filter for the freshwater coming from the surrounding watersheds that feeds into the river basin. It also serves as an important wintering ground for migratory birds like herons and egrets.