MOUNT Siburan—known as the largest primary lowland forest in Mindoro—is protected under the jurisdiction of the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm (SPPF) in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro.
Its forests are deemed indispensable to the people because they are the source of raw materials for the peoples’ livelihood, as well as potable water and water for irrigation. They also serve as a barrier to calamities such as flash flood and soil erosion, and also the sanctuary of a very rich biodiversity.
The Mindoro Hornbill (penelopides mindorensis) and the Mindoro Bleeding-heart (gallicolumba platenae) are both Mindoro-endemic species and among the wildlife found in Mt. Siburan.
According to the indigenous peoples, the Tamaraw (bubalus mindorensis) also comes into its forests. Because of this, Mt. Siburan was recognized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as one of the 117 Important Biodiversity Areas (IBA) in the Philippines.
A local monitoring group implementing the Important Biodiversity Area Monitoring System (IBAMS) worked with Birdlife International in 2013 to conduct its regular monitoring survey of the Mt. Siburan forests.
The IBAMS is an approach used by Haribon Foundation to determine state, pressure and response (SPR) in a certain IBA such as Mt. Siburan in the Municipality of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro. The IBAMS team composed of local stakeholders has been organized to participate in the monitoring activities thereby transferring the skills to local communities.
The IBAMS Team in Sablayan is composed of members from the SPPF, staff from the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) of the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Sablayan, representatives from a local NGO—Samahan ng Sablayeñong Mapagkalinga sa Kalikasan (SASAMAKA), Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) staff, Barangay Malisbong community representatives, as well as representatives from the organized Community Based Forest Management Agreement (CBFMA) holders from Barangay Palbong.
The IBAMS team selects trigger species such as birds endemic to Mindoro, that are of significance and whose presence is related to the health of the forest. The two identified indicator bird species are the globally threatened, island-endemic Mindoro Bleeding Heart and Mindoro Hornbill.
The Mt. Siburan IBAMS Team, which had been re-activated and re-oriented, have gathered data needed. A total of 86 species of birds, mammals, and herpetofauna were recorded during the biophysical surveys, which indicates that Mt. Siburan still holds a significant expanse of biodiversity. However, it remains vulnerable to pressures from human activities.
In order to mitigate these threats, the IBAMS Team came up with various recommendations such as policy reviews, systematic and regular monitoring, livelihood, and Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaigns.
The IBAMS report was presented by representatives of the IBAMS Team during the Sangguniang Barangay session in Sablayan MLGU, and to the Provincial Council. It is gratifying to know that the local government is willing to support the recommendations of the IBAMS Team specifically on strict implementation of environmental laws.