The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has placed 39 natural caves across the country under the protection and management of the government.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the classification, as embodied in Memorandum Circular 2016-05 that he signed, was necessary to ensure that the caves would be “preserved and properly enjoyed by the public.”
“The directive will help enhance public awareness and appreciation that caves are part of our natural resources because of their significance as ecosystems which host various forms of wildlife,” Paje explained.
“It also helps protect the geological, archaeological, historical and cultural values these caves carry, and helps sustain them for the enjoyment of future generations,” he added.
The additional 39 caves brings to 454 the total number of caverns that are now part of the country’s natural wealth and therefore require sustainable management and protection.
The 39 caves include six in the Cordillera Administrative Region; seven in Ilocos Region; two in Cagayan Region; 15 in Bicol; three in Davao del Norte province; and six in Region 12 (SOCCKSKARGEN).
Nine caves were categorized as Class I for their delicate and fragile formations, threatened species and extremely hazardous conditions being closed to ecotourism. Activities allowed within these caves are limited to mapping, photography, and educational and scientific purposes.
Categorized as Class I caves are the Karilagan and Aswang caves in Catanduanes, and the Kasilac Bat Cave in San Isidro, Davao del Norte.
A total of 23 caves were classified as Class II, including the Sorolla Cave in Koronadal City. Class II caves have portions with hazardous conditions, as well as sensitive geological, cultural and historical values or ecosystems. These sections may be declared closed, while the other portions may be open to experienced spelunkers or guided visits.
Seven caves, including the Dalangin Cave in Camarines Sur and the Sibud-Sibud Cave in Abra, were identified as Class III or those safe for inexperienced, yet expert-accompanied visits. These caves may also be utilized for economic activities like extraction or collection of guano or bird’s nest.
The DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau has been studying the caves prior to their classification, pursuant to Republic Act No. 9072 or the National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act.
The law mandates the DENR to formulate, develop and implement a cave management program to conserve and protect caves and cave resources.
James Konstantin Galvez