The Central Panay Mountain Range (CPMR) is one of the key biodiversity areas in the country and home to a number of endemic species. Their survival depends on the sustainable management of the forest. So far, efforts to unite the four provinces surrounding the CPMR to proclaim it a protected area and include it in the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) have not materialized.
In the absence of a formal management system in many areas of the CPMR, the Forest and Climate Protection in Panay Phase II (ForClim II) Project, which is supported by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, encourages a more decentralized and localized management system by establishing a critical habitat area (CH).
ForClim envisions a well-connected system of critical habitats managed by LGUs working together. To achieve this objective, the project has assisted LGUs to formulate Forest Land Use Plans (FLUP) that integrate the establishment and management of CH into FLUP zoning and management strategies. As of today, seven CHs were declared in the provinces of Aklan, Antique and Iloilo by respective partner LGUs.
CHs can only make sustainable contributions to biodiversity conservation if they are interconnected. Therefore, the project encourages LGUs to collaborate and establish connectivity between their CHs. The Sibalom LGU for instance, has established a biodiversity corridor that connects its protected area to the forest area of the San Remigio LGU. In Antique, similar efforts are being supported by ForClim.
CH can complement the current system of protected areas in the Philippines, enhancing ecological representation, landscape/seascape connectivity and buffer zone safeguards. In the absence of a protected area designation for the CPMR, the establishment of a locally-managed system of well-connected critical habitats is a viable alternative. (ForClim2/ Ruth Martinez)