The last survey I did on Mangatarem, Pangasinan turned out to be a wake-up call as I realized the urgency to conserve biodiversity in the Philippines.
The stakes are high. Preserving one of the last holdouts of forest biodiversity in Luzon would mean keeping vital ecosystem services going to the surrounding communities, as well as safeguarding the beautiful natural heritage of Philippine wildlife.
Mangatarem, Pangasinan is part of the Zambales Mountain Range Key Biodiversity Area (KBA).
KBA’s are discrete sites that hold high and important biodiversity, and in the case of the Zambales Mountain Range, only a small part is protected by the national government—the Manleluag Spring Protected Landscape (MSPL) of Pangasinan.
In order to protect their remaining forests, the municipality of Mangatarem, along with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Haribon Foundation, have set to establish a protected Critical Habitat (CH) within the part of the KBA in the municipal territory to extend the conserved habitat around MSPL.
Currently, the protection status is maintained by Municipal Ordinance, but the stakeholders are processing its recognition by the DENR as a Critical Habitat under Republic Act (RA) 9147, or the Wildlife Act.
The survey conducted last November 20 to 26, 2013 at the site was for monitoring purposes to see if the biodiversity of the KBA is still intact.
In terms of biodiversity, data shows that the site still have important plant and animal wildlife. However, the survey team also found direct threats to the KBA. Outside of Pangasinan, on the Zambales side of the KBA, mining operations are driving the wildlife to other parts of the mountain range.
Within the Critical Habitat, the hunting pressure is extremely detrimental to the remaining wildlife. Hunters were encountered during the survey, looking mainly for Philippine Warty Pigs and Philippine Deer, both being Vulnerable to extinction under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
The commendable efforts of the municipal government, DENR, people’s organizations, and Haribon Foundation may save the forest yet, and from the perspective of our non-government organization, the need for biodiversity research and conservation has never been more important.