Mount Kanla-on gains more support
BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO
As one of the most important protected areas in the Philippines, the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park in Negros Island continues to receive support for its conservation and protection. The only home to the Negros fruit dove and other endemic species, Mount Kanla-on was among the first batch of protected areas in the country that has been declared by the Congress. However, the congressional declaration of Mount Kanla-on, as a component of the Philippines’ National Integrated Protected Areas System, was quite controversial with the reduction of its original land area by 169 hectares to give way for the delineation of a buffer zone solely intended for geothermal energy development.
MKNP newly designated Protected Area Superintendent Cecil Cañada said the budget provided by the national government for the management of the protected area is quite limited, so much so that his office is now tapping additional support from different agencies. Recently, the Senate, through the office of Senator Pia Cayetano, provided funds to cover the hiring of additional park wardens, enhancement of interpretation signs and markers, and development of conservation education, among others. Governor Freddie Marañon of Negros Occidental likewise released certain amount to update the survey and registration of protected area occupants. MKNP is also included in the National Greening Program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, while some private groups, such as the Energy Development Corporation, are supporting restoration activities in the protected area, Cañada added.
Some local government units covering the MKNP are similarly involve in ecotourism development and supporting the operations of the Kanla-on Brigade Brigade, a group of volunteers who are actually implementing biodiversity protection measures. Cañada further disclosed that there is still a need to tap additional funding, logistical and technical support to further enhance the protection of MKNP, since there are still numerous concerns and challenges that need to be addressed in the area, especially involving the land tenure and sustainable livelihood of communities. He admitted that land conversion for agricultural development is still an issue, especially in the portions of MKNP in La Castellana, San Carlos and Canlaon City.
Although Mount Kanla-on (then spelled Canlaon) was long before proclaimed as one of the national parks in the Philippines, it has never been spared from logging, land titling, agriculture and settlement. Through the years, thousands of lowlanders encroached and settled permanently and became formal political units in MKNP. Almost half of about 24,000 hectares coverage of the protected area is now converted into other uses, while the remaining intact forests are now confined in higher elevations and slopes of Mount Kanla-on.
In spite of the reduction of Mount Kanla-on’s forests, it remains as one of the 128 Key Biodiversity Areas of the Philippines, because it is the host to a good number of endemic species with distribution limited only to Negros Island and West Visayas Bio-geographic Zone. In fact, numerous critically endangered species are found in Mount Kanla-on, the main reason why it is included as one of areas covered by the Alliance for Zero Extinction. Critically endangered is the highest category of threat assign to a particular flora and fauna that may soon extinct in the wild if no proper conservation measures are being in place.
Aside from its amazing flora and fauna, Mount Kanla-on is also noted for its majestic landscape and therefore a big asset for ecological tourism. The crater of the active Kanla-on Volcano, at the top most of the protected area, is a sight to behold, and the subject of ultimate destination of mountaineers, not only in the Philippines but including some other countries, too. The Margaha Valley, a dormant crater just several meters below the present crater, offers another relaxing view, while the Hardin Sang Balo, located along the trail from Sitio Wasay, Brgy. Minoyan in Murcia to the crater, is a marvelous gift of nature, where the different species of flora are competing their beauty and color. Waterfalls, with various features, also abound in Mount Kanla-on. It is therefore necessary that support from various groups is enlisted to ensure the long-term protection and conservation of Mount Kanlaon. (Photos courtesy of the Office of the Protected Area Superintendent-Mount Kanla-on Natural Park)*
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