The municipal council of Aborlan has approved a resolution declaring the Victoria-Anepahan Mountain Range in central Palawan comprising of over 160,000 hectares of mostly old growth forest as a protected area.
The Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) presented the plan Monday before the town council of Aborlan to seek the municipal government’s endorsement.
ELAC Executive Director Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda told Aborlan officials that the mountain range is one of Palawan’s most important areas for conservation because of its biodiversity.
“Mahalaga sya hindi lang para sa Palawan, hindi lang para sa Pilipinas kundi para sa buong mundo dahil siya ay nasaliksik na. Nalaman na mayabong siya sa likas na yaman at kasama siya sa lubos na inaalagaan,” Anda said.
The area, comprising of a total of 164,789 hectares is also shared among the towns of Narra, Quezon and Puerto Princesa City.
ELAC said the passage of the resolution or an ordinance supporting the designation of the protected area will speed up the process of its formal delineation.
“A resolution that will support the Victoria-Anepahan Mountain Range (VAMR) is a good direction,” Anda said.
She pointed out that proposed protected area has been identified by the scientific community as one Palawan’s Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) and is included in the 2016 list of the KBAs in the Philippines .
She further explained that the Indigenous People (IP) living in the area will still benefit from the forest even it is declared as protected area because based on the IPRA Law only the IP has a right to get materials such as rattan and almaciga as a source of income.
Western Philippines University (WPU) Dean Lita Sopsop, who also appeared before the Aborlan council session, said that the mountain range has a capacity to provide commercial, irrigation and drinking water for almost 17, 000 households. In addition, she cited studies that shows the forest range can absorb some 16.8 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
She noted that an expedition in 2016 led to the discovery of a pitcher plant species, the Palawan Stripped Tit-Babbler and the three species of Goby Fish.
“Ilan lang ‘yan sa nadiskubre na dito lang makikita pero ang dami pang walang pangalan. Dito pa lang sa area natin ang dami nang di malaman kung ano, ano pa kaya kung makita at mapuntahan natin ang buong area. So ganoon siya ka-diverse ecologically,” Sopsop said.