THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Sunday expressed hope that the designation of Mount Makiling Forest Reserve in Laguna as one of Southeast Asia’s most treasured parks will spur enhanced coordination and foster greater cooperation among stakeholders to ensure its long-term protection and conservation.
Just recently, environment ministers from the 10 member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have approved the nomination of Makiling as the 33rd Asean Heritage Park (AHP) and the fifth in the Philippines.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the recognition came as a “pleasant surprise” considering that the legendary mountain has been a “living laboratory for scholars and scientists,” which is also exposed to various human activities that threaten its biodiversity.
Paje, however, pointed out that the naming of Makiling as a regional heritage park also meant “additional responsibilities, especially for those in charge of maintaining the natural park.”
Despite being a host to a dense human population in various settlements and a popular tourist destination because of its hot springs, campsites, scenery, and gardens, the forest reserve is known for its high conservation importance, being one of the country’s 18 centers of plant diversity and 32 key ecotourism sites.
“Mount Makiling is the only duly designated AHP thus far in the Luzon mainland. Its inclusion in the prestigious list of the region’s heritage parks prompts us to enhance our stewardship of this wonderful forest reserve,” Paje said.
The four other AHPs in country are the Mount Apo Natural Park, Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park, and Mount Malindang Range Natural Park, all in Mindanao, and the Mounts Iglit-Baco National Park in Occidental Mindoro, Visayas.
AHPs are declared to represent conservation efforts of areas with importance or exceptional uniqueness in terms of biodiversity.
In December 2003, environment ministers in the region signed the Asean Declaration on Heritage Parks in Yangon, Myanmar to promote cooperation among member-countries in developing and implementing conservation and management action plans for the region’s natural parks and other critical ecosystems.