Conservationists fear that, without immediate intervention, the Philippines hotspot is on the brink of an extinction crisis. Logging concessions have not been eliminated from lowland forests, which have already been reduced to a tiny fraction of their original cover, and illegal logging is widespread.
National parks and protected areas are crucial for the conservation of Philippine biodiversity. However, only 11 percent of the total land area of the Philippines (approximately 32,000 km²) is protected. This figure drops to only six percent of the hotspot (18,000 km²) when only protected areas in IUCN categories I to IV are included. National park boundaries have not been well demarcated, there is little enforcement, and there is even debate over how many parks exist in the country. Two-thirds of parks have human settlements, and one-quarter of their lands have already been disturbed or converted to agriculture. On a positive note, at least five new protected areas were proclaimed in 2002. In October 2003, the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape was greatly expanded, from 4,136 hectares to 118,108 hectares. More recently, the Quirino Protected Landscape, which covers 206,875 hectares in northeastern Luzon, was established through a presidential proclamation.
One way of ensuring that the network of protected areas adequately conserves biodiversity is through the conservation of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), sites holding populations of globally threatened or geographically restricted species. KBAs are discrete biological units that contain species of global conservation concern and that can be potentially managed for conservation as a single unit. In the Philippines hotspot, Conservation International-Philippines in collaboration with the Field Museum in Chicago, Haribon Foundation and other local partners are in the process of identifying and delineating KBAs throughout the Philippines. This work, supported by CEPF, is a refinement of the broad-scale priorities identified during the 2000 Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Priority-Setting Process. It builds directly from the 117 Important Bird Areas defined by the Haribon Foundation, published in 2001. As IBAs are sites containing globally threatened, restricted-range, and congregatory species, they provide the starting point for the incorporation of data on other taxonomic groups to identify KBAs.
In addition to creating effective protected areas, basic field research is desperately needed to support conservation activities. New endemic species are being discovered all of the time, and this information feeds directly into the refinement and prioritization of KBAs. A range of other conservation activities are underway throughout the islands. For example, the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Program on Palawan has made great progress in reducing the theft of this species’ eggs. On Cebu, the recent rediscovery of several of the islands’ presumed-extinct species (most famously the Cebu flowerpecker), has focused community conservation activities by the Cebu Biodiversity Conservation Foundation on protecting the island’s last few hectares of forest. The Haribon Foundation and Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund have organized a Threatened Species Program to support such initiatives through the provision of small grants.
In the long term, it is clear that landscape- and seascape-scale conservation will be necessary to allow the Philippines' extraordinary biodiversity to persist. To this end, Conservation International and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund have been supporting conservation in biodiversity conservation corridors in the Sierra Madre, Palawan, and Eastern Mindanao regions. This work has included the establishment of the Philippine Eagle Alliance, to coordinate the work of the various conservation groups working within the range of this magnificent but seriously threatened flagship species for Philippine conservation.