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Catanduanes Forest in German-Funded DENR Project

The Catanduanes Watershed Forest Reserve (CWFR) is among the 60 protected areas around the country that are covered by a German-funded environmental project aimed at improving the management of the Philippines’ natural resources.

CENRO officer-in-charge Luvimindo Chioco recently told the Tribune that the Protected Area Management Enhancement (PAME) project is being implemented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), under a grant from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. The funding was coursed through the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ).

The P450 million (€9 million) project is being carried out nationwide until March 2017 to ensure proper management of 60 existing protected areas by improving the technical competencies and capacities of staff of the DENR’s Protected Area and Wildlife Bureau.

The PAME project will also see the establishment of at least 100 new terrestrial and marine parks in selected key biodiversity areas or sites considered “internationally important” for biodiversity conservation by identified stakeholders. The GIZ will provide expertise on natural resource management for training courses and study tours and other forms of technical support, including equipment and supplies. The DENR, for its part, is shouldering other maintenance and operational costs and provide the necessary support staff.

Two teams from the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), in cooperation with GIZ and the DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) has already conducted the Management Effectiveness and Capacity Assessment (MECA) survey in 12 PAs covering Regions 4A and 5, including Catanduanes.

The team headed by Dr. Paulo Pasicolan convened the Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB) of each of the 12 PAs in the said regions to assess and analyze the PAs’ legal, institutional, financial, bases and processes through focus group discussions (FGD) and key informant interviews (KII).

In Bicol, the protected areas covered are the Abasig-Matogdon-Mananap Natural Biotic Area, the Bicol Natural Park, the Bulusan Volcano Natural Park, the Caramoan Natural Park, the Catanduanes Watershed Forest Reserve, the Lagonoy Natural Biotic Area and the Mt. Isarog Natural Park.

CENRO Chioco said the results of the assessment were presented to the Catanduanes PAMB during the validation period last month,

According to the assessment, the CWFR has yet to be covered by a proclamation despite the submission of all necessary documents to the DENR Central Office in January 2012. The 26,010-hectare area, however, was declared a watershed reservation in 1987, covering the towns of Bato, Baras, Caramoran, Gigmoto, San Miguel, San Andres, Virac, and Viga. Regulations rationalizing land use within the reserve are in place but implementation is weak due to lack of personnel.

The same problem is attends law enforcement and protection system, aggravated by the absence of barangay volunteers as Bantay Gubat. Information and Education Campaign in the covered communities is also limited.

The report noted that Virac Water District (VIWAD) and Sunwest Water & Electricity Co, (SUWECO) have gained footholds in the CWFR but have yet to pay the user’s fee for extracting a huge volume of water from the watershed. Both are reportedly willing to pay the fee.

It was also noted that no visitors’ facilities and eco-tourism operations are in place inside the reservation despite the influx of mountain hikers and nature enthusiasts.

The forest reserve, which covers 17.2% of the island’s land area, is home to 5,876 hectares of old-growth forest which in turn shelter some Philippine birds, mammals and reptiles which are rare, endangered and unique species. Among these are Gray’s monitor lizard, Southern Luzon cloud rat, civet cats, Philippine Macaques and many species of birds like the Luzon bleeding heart pigeon, Tarictic hornbillds, blue-crowned racket tails and important raptors. - CT

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