Mangatarem Critical Habitat Declaration and Planning Process Experience
Declaration and Critical Habitat management plan and public consultation.
by Jaime Monge, Jr.
Site Action, Haribon Foundation
The Mangatarem’s Critical Habitat lies at the northeastern part of Zambales Mountains, Luzon Island in the Philippines. Zambales Mountains is an Important Biodiversity Area (IBA) designated as PH 005, being among the few remaining tropical rainforests in the country and a habitat of numerous endemic, unique, and threatened species of plants and animals. This IBA also harbors critical watersheds for neighboring Zambales, and Tarlac provinces.
Unfortunately, extraction activities from surrounding communities damaged the forests of Mangatarem. 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 were evident in the site. A number of wild animals and plant species are nearing their extinction due to the constriction in their habitat.
Map of the Zambales Mountains Important Biodiversity Area PH 005.
With this current situation, the Municipal Local Government Unit (MLGU) of Mangatarem, and the DENR, in partnership with Haribon Foundation, have worked together to further educate the Mangatarem community on forest protection, and conservation, giving birth to the formulation of a Forest Land Use Plan (FLUP).
To ensure proper execution and implementation of the FLUP, a Steering Committee composed of multi-sectoral stakeholders was formed. Members of this committee lead in the management of the Mangatarem forests, and they develop plans for the conservation of the specified areas.
In June 2011, Haribon conducted a biophysical survey of the site, and they were able to record a total of 82 species of plants and trees, and 115 terrestrial vertebrate species, confirming the high endemicity of the site. Four threatened species namely the Philippine Duck, Flame-breasted Fruit Dove, Ashy Ground-Thrush, and the Philippine Warty Pig were also noted in the survey.
Co-management Memorandum of Agreement signing.
Haribon has been working side-by-side with the FLUP Steering Committee in creating programs that help protect the IBA, and providing technical advice in the implementation of the plan. In October 2011, the Steering Committee pushed for the declaration of the FLUP-identified forest conservation area of 5,743 hectares as Critical Habitat, which could either be DENR or LGU-initiated following the procedures specified under the DENR Memorandum Circular No. 2007-02 or the Guidelines on the Establishment and Management of Critical Habitat.
Initially, the Municipal LGU proposed to excise portion of the conservation area to give way to a Napier Plantation. For almost a year, there were no updates or action taken to expedite the declaration of Critical Habitat because the DENR, with its own counterproposal to establish such project in other location, failed to immediately settle the issue.
After earnest persuasion and perseverance, the hard work of the Steering Committee finally paid off. The 5,063.47 hectares was declared as a critical habitat with a buffer zone of 100 meters separating the CH from the Napier plantation area in August 2013.
The elusive Philippine frogmouth.
Members of the Critical Habitat Management Plan-Technical Working Group (CHMP-TWG) started crafting five planning modules as prescribed for the CHMP formulation process, and designing 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.
National declaration by the DENR Secretary will be secured early 2014 through a department administrative order, draft of which has been prepared and submitted by Haribon to DENR Region 1 for endorsement to DENR national office.