Tubbataha Reefs, Hamiguitan forest named Asean treasures
MANILA, Philippines–The world-renowned Tubbataha Reefs diving site off Palawan and the Mt. Hamiguitan forest in Davao Oriental have been officially recognized as among Southeast Asia’s most treasured parks.
During their meeting in Vientiane, Laos, last month, environment ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) approved the inclusion of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and the Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary among the Asean Heritage Parks.
The approval brings to 35 the number of Asean Heritage Parks, seven of which are in the Philippines.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the designation of the Tubbataha and Mt. Hamiguitan national protected areas as regional heritage parks was long overdue since the two had been recognized as Unesco World Heritage Sites.
The five other Asean Heritage Parks in the country are Mt. Apo Natural Park, Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park and Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park—all in Mindanao; Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park in Occidental Mindoro; and Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve in Laguna.
“This latest recognition indicates that the natural characteristics of both Tubbataha and Mt. Hamiguitan are so exceptional that they deserve to be protected for the benefit of everyone in Southeast Asia,” Paje said in a statement.
Asean Heritage Parks are marked off as areas “of high conservation importance” as key biodiversity areas.
Located 181 kilometers southeast of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan, the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is at the very center of the Sulu Sea.
The park contains roughly 10,000 hectares of coral reefs and more than 86,000 hectares of surrounding waters, lying at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the center of global marine biodiversity.
The Tubbataha marine sanctuary is home to diverse marine life, including at least half of all coral species in the world and about 80 percent of all coral species in the Philippines.
Green sea and hawksbill turtles, as well as rays and sharks, are common in the reefs. Pelagics such as tuna, mackerel, jacks and barracuda are observed in schools near the reef crests.
The Tubbataha marine sanctuary was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1993.
Established in 2004, the Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary covers 6,834 hectares of seven barangays (villages) in Davao Oriental.
Standing at 1,637 meters, Mt. Hamiguitan is surrounded by forest land, including a bonsai field or “pygmy” forest of 100-year-old trees on ultramafic soil.
The trees within the mossy pygmy forest stand an average of only 1.4 meters, with a diameter of eight centimeters. One of the dominant species that can be found only in this forest type is the tinikaran or red fig tree (scientific name Wendlandia nervosa).
Other rare plant species found on Mt. Hamiguitan include the slipper orchid, nepenthes, staghorn fern, rhododendrons and Philippine hardwoods, such as yakal and tangile.
Subscribe to our global nation newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.