The Northern Negros Natural Park increasing forest cover
BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO
The information recently disclosed by the Provincial Environment Management Office of Negros Occidental that the forest cover of the Northern Negros Natural Park had increased in a decade is quite interesting. The report said the forest cover of the protected area has increased from 22,288.8 hectares in 2001 to 30,178.7 hectares in 2011, or about 7,889.9 hectares additional forest in a matter of 10 years.
The figure represents roughly 27% of the entire NNNP. However, it is difficult to ascertain if the reported increased in NNNP’s forest cover is due to reforestation initiatives, or it is an open logged over area that has already regenerated. Probably, the figure also includes tree plantations that are intended for production and usually comprise of exotic species.
Covering a total area of 80,454.50 hectares within the 11 cities and municipalities in Negros Occidental, the NNNP was declared as a protected area by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 895 issued on 15 August 2005. The NNNP is the 3rd officially declared protected area in Negros Occidental, and it accounts the largest remaining forest cover in the whole of Negros Island. The two other proclaimed protected areas in Negros Occidental are the Sagay Marine Reserve in Sagay City and the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park, which partly covers Canlaon City in Negros Oriental.
The three protected areas in Negros Occidental are actually showcasing the different environment and natural resources modalities, as far as their institutional and management arrangements are concerned. The MKNP is directly administered by the Department of Environment Natural Resources through the Office of the Protected Area Superintendent. The DENR Regional Executive Direction in Region VI chairs the Protected Area Management Board of MKNP.
The SMR, on the other hand, is directly under the city government of Sagay. The Mayor of Sagay serves as the chair of the PAMB and the PASu office is similarly under the local government. The management of NNNP is also interesting since Governor Freddie Marañon acts as the co-chair of the PAMB, while the PEMO is currently serving as the secretariat to the operations of the PAMB. I made to believe that the present arrangement in the management of NNP is supported by the memorandum of agreement entered into by the provincial government with the PAMB. However, this is temporary in nature, because the Congress has still to decide what specific management system shall be installed in NNNP, just like the case of MKNP and SMR.
Regardless whatever institutional mechanisms are being introduced in various conservation sites in Negros Occidental, what is important is our ultimate goal in protecting these sites from destructive activities. Aside of course from protection measures, we also need to rehabilitate denuded areas, particularly in NNNP and MKNP to increase the forest cover of the province. It should be noted that Negros Occidental is heavily deforested, with the remaining forest cover can only be found in NNNP, MKNP and in some forest patches in the southern part of the province. Available statistics point out that the forest cover of Negros Occidental remains at four percent, but there is a need to validate this figure because of the reported increasing forest cover in NNNP and most likely in MKNP, too.
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