Polillo’s amazing biodiversity
BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO
(Polillo, Quezon)… The Polillo Group of Islands, also known as the Pollillo Archipelago, is probably unknown to many because of its isolation from the mainland of Luzon. Facing the Pacific Ocean, 25 kilometers east of Luzon, the archipelago is usually only heard of during news updates of weather disturbances. This group of islands is comprised of 27 islands and islets belonging to five municipalities: Polillo, Burdeos and Panukulan, which occupy the mainland, and the two island municipalities of Patnanungan and Jomalig .
The island got its name from the Chinese “Pu-li-lu”, which means “an island with plenty of food.” It is an apt name because aside from the abundance of seafood, the islands also boast of amazing terrestrial resources some of which can be found nowhere else in the Philippines, much less the whole world. This richness has drawn a lot of interest in the scientific community, and numerous scientific studies have been conducted in this part of the country since early last century.
About a three-hour boat ride from the municipality of Real in Quezon, the Polillo towns are typically rural, with no permanent and regular public utility buses and jeepneys plying the routes from one municipality to the other, and the road system not yet well established. The most common mode of transportation is by boat and many residents have to settle for motorcycles as inland transportation. Only few of the settlers here own vehicles, although a lot of houses especially at town centers have already been renovated into big bungalows.
The environment here is quite peaceful and simple with not much opportunities for nightlife. Electricity is available only between two o’clock in the afternoon to six o’clock the following morning. Simple as it may the lifestyle may be, the Polillos have much more to offer, which many of its residents are even unaware of, and these are the rich biological resources found in this part of the country.
The Polillo Archipelago has been identified as one of the priority areas for biodiversity conservation because it is home to at least seven endemic species and sub-species of fauna and numerous other biologically important species. But like the islands of Negros, Panay, Cebu and Mindoro, the Polillos’ forests that are important habitats to these valuable species have practically been wiped out by excessive commercial logging operations in the past, making it one of the biodiversity hotspots of the country today. With the cessation of logging in the island, the timberlands of the Polillos have been converted into other land uses with vast areas now devoted to permanent agriculture such as coconut plantation. The history of the exploitation of natural resources in this island is actually not an isolated case because similar things have occurred and are still happening in most parts of the Philippines.
Professor Juan Carlos Gonzalez, a noted biologist of the University of the Philippines who had conducted extensive studies in the Polillos, claimed that there are in fact 10 species and sub-species bearing Polillo as part of their common names. These species are Polillo Tarictic Hornbill (Penelopides manillae subnigra), Polillo Flameback (Chrysocolaptes lucidus), Polillo White-browed Shama (Copsychus luzonniensis parvimaculatos), Polillo Blue-naped Parrot (Tanygnathus lucionensis hydridus), Polillo Blue-backed Parrot (Tanygnathus sumatranus freeri), Polillo Crested Lizard (Bronchocoela marmoratus sanchezi), Polillo Forest Frog (Platymantis polilloensis) and Polillo Green-scaled Geck (Pseudogekko smaragdinus). (This article appeared first at http://samutsaringbuhay.wordpress.com/)*
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