Mount Apo wildlife rescue, conservation center mulled

DAVAO CITY—An ambitious wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center is being hatched up for Mount Apo wildlife that may involve as large as 100 hectares for the facility.

At least two municipal governments in the Davao Region and Region 12 have volunteered spaces in their localities to host the facility but these proposed areas would still be subject to ongoing discussions among local government units straddled by the mountain, and private companies which also indicated their support to the proposal.

Joey E. Recimilla, director of the Policy Formulation, Planning and Project Development Office of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), said Mayor Jose Paolo Evangelista of Kidapawan City, North Cotabato, and Acting Mayor Michel Louise Gutierrez of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, volunteered their towns to host the facility.

“These areas have 50 hectares, but the DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] told us it has 100 hectares,” he told a news briefing on Wednesday, after the chief executives and representatives of the Aboitiz Group and the Energy Development Corp. gathered for a commitment signing for the project.

They attended the workshop later in the afternoon to iron out more details, such as the scope and size of the facility, where, from whom they would source the funds, and how much, said Secretary Maria Belen S. Acosta, the chairman of the MinDA.

Acosta disclosed that the move to establish the rescue center was partly prompted by the continued encroachment of Mount Apo and the sporadic incidents of Philippine eagles and other raptors, warty pigs and other wildlife animals being targets of game hunters and local tribal villagers.

MinDA has initiated the project and has engaged the local government units around the foothills of Mount Apo to contribute to the crafting of the rescue center.

Shirley Uy, the Mount Apo Natural Park (MANP) Protected Area superintendent (PASU), said hunting was among the threats to wildlife conservation in Mount Apo, although government has allowed the indigenous villagers to engage in hunting “because these are not for commercial purpose but for their sustenance.”

“However, we still have to regulate this hunting by the tribes and we ask and encourage them to list down the animals they usually target for hunting and the season for their hunting so that we can regulate their activities,” she added.

Uy said the project came at a period that the MANP PASU office was “preparing the protected area management plan for the next ten years.”

The plan would include conducting a study on the carrying area capacity of the mountain “to determine how many establishment and trekkers we can allow to stay and use the area without disturbing balance of biodiversity.”

“This effort is another milestone of our dream. It can be implemented until the time that we will not be here and the next generation will enjoy it,” Uy said.

The DENR said the MANP is included on the United Nations’ List of National Parks and Equivalent Reserves and has been acknowledged as an Asean heritage site.

A key biodiversity area, it is home to over 272 bird species, 11 of which are endemic, MANP also houses one of the world’s largest eagles, the critically endangered Philippine Eagle.

“Continued anthropogenic [human] activities threaten remaining pockets of wildlife in the area,” the DENR has warned.

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