Mangatarem’s critical habitat lies at the northeastern part of Zambales Mountains in Luzon. The Zambales Mountains is an important biodiversity area (IBA), being among the few remaining tropical rainforests in the country and a habitat of numerous endemic, unique, and threatened species of plants and animals.
The municipality of Mangatarem is endowed with the thickest forest areas in Pangasinan, and in the whole Zambales Mountains IBA harboring critical watersheds not only benefiting its own but as well as the neighboring Zambales, and Tarlac provinces.
Unfortunately, evidences of human-induced actions damaged its forests, specifically the extraction activities from surrounding forest dependent communities such as logging, land conversion, mining, kaingin, tree-cutting for charcoal and fuel wood production, and gathering of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for domestic consumption and trading.
Since the 80s, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) launched reforestation programs. However, the minimal improvement in vegetation, which included the use of exotic tree species, was outweighed by poverty and continuous dependence of communities to forest resources for livelihood and survival.
To address these threats to biodiversity, the Municipal Local Government Unit (MLGU) of Mangatarem and the DENR, in partnership with Haribon Foundation and the BirdLife partner in the Philippines, the Forest Land Use Plan (FLUP) was formulated for the municipality, which has finally been adopted by the Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Council) in 2010.
Through the FLUP, both MLGU Mangatarem and DENR forged a Co-Management Agreement where they jointly manage open access and unclassified forests and forestlands within the IBA.
The Co-Management Agreement provided for the formation of the Steering Committee composed of multi-sectoral stakeholders whose primary responsibility is to ensure the proper implementation of the FLUP. One of the functions of the Steering Committee is to “set aside conservation areas, and develop appropriate management plans, over portions of Mangatarem forest known to harbor unique habitats, threatened flora and fauna, and areas that deserve conservation, consistent with national policies, rules and regulations.”
Also, it is through the New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project (NewCAPP), a Global Environmental Funds—United Nations Development Program (GEF-UNDP) funded project; DENR-Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) and Haribon Foundation provided technical advice to the FLUP Steering Committee in the implementation of the plan.
In the first quarter of 2012, the municipal LGU proposed to excise portion of the conservation area that will be converted to a Napier plantation for its Renewable Energy Project. For almost a year, there was a limited forward action done for Critical Habitat declaration because the DENR, with its own counterproposal to establish such project in other location, failed to immediately settle the issue.
Nevertheless, the Technical Working Group for Critical Habitat Management Planning (CHMP-TWG), created in August 2012, supported an Executive Order issued by the Municipal Mayor.
In February 2013, the Steering Committee presented resolutions, urging the Mangatarem Sangguniang Bayan to legislate the necessary ordinance for Critical Habitat and for amendments of their FLUP allocating areas for Napier production to excise from the forest conservation area.
Members of the CHMP-TWG, after finishing a series of workshops, crafted five planning modules as prescribed for the CHMP formulation process and designed a CHMP outline incorporating situational analysis, cross visits, management planning, public consultations, and CMP write shop.
The CHMP of Mangatarem for 2014 to 2018 provides a framework on how the different stakeholders, led by the Municipal LGU and the DENR, will collaborate in the protection and conservation of biodiversity, not only within Mangatarem but to create an impact in the entire IBA.
In line with this, a Critical Habitat Management Committee has been organized under the Steering Committee to administer CHMP implementation, with MENRO (Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office) as the coordinating office.
For five years, the plan costs P10,199,000 with the first two years having the heaviest investment of almost 60 percent mainly for forest restoration, livelihood development, and woodlot establishment and protection activities.