Tubbataha Reef is among Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Heritage Parks in the Philippines. (Photo courtesy of Rommel Cruz/Wild Expeditions Palawan)

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Heritage Parks (AHPs) is gearing up for its 35th year anniversary in October.

As part of this, the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) held on June 18-20 the fifth meeting and workshop of the Philippine ASEAN Heritage Parks in the city, the government communications network Philippine Information Agency (PIA) said in a news post.

It said on Thursday that the event was conducted in cooperation with the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) with support from the European Union (EU) through the Biodiversity Conservation and Protected Area Management in the ASEAN (BCAMP) project.

Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, ACB executive director, said that the meeting-workshop wanted to give value to the ASEAN Heritage Parks in the country and to ensure that they meet the minimum management standards, if not the highest.

“More than the quantity, we give value to the quality of the ASEAN Heritage Parks. We must ensure that all these parks meet the minimum management standards, if not the highest. With the global environmental issues we are facing today such as species extinction and climate change, and the importance of our ASEAN Heritage Parks in addressing these concerns, it is timely that we review our action plans and strategies while learning from each other,” said Lim.

Out of the 44 AHPs, nine are in the Philippines: Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park, Mt. Apo Natural Park, Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park, Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, Mts. Timpoong-Hibok-Hibok Natural Monument, Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve, and Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary.

The AHPs are “best-protected areas” in the ASEAN region in terms of ecological completeness, biodiversity richness, and conservation importance.

With the ACB serving as the Secretariat, the AHP Programme is a flagship initiative of the ASEAN. The programme manages a regional network of representative protected areas created to generate greater collaboration between ASEAN Member States (AMS) in preserving the region’s natural heritage, the PIA release said.

The three-day workshop was designed to improve the understanding and appreciation of the importance of AHPs in the conservation of biodiversity in the ASEAN region; assess the progress of the implementation of the AHP Regional Action Plan relative to Aichi Biodiversity Targets; discuss and exchange experiences and practices on the management of AHPs; identify activities to improve management of AHPs in the Philippines; prepare the National and Site Level Work Plans for the implementation of the BCAMP project; and prepare Philippine inputs to the Sixth AHP Conference.

The meeting-workshop in the city is one of the activities in preparation for the commemoration of the First ASEAN Declaration on Heritage Parks and Reserves.

The Sixth AHP Conference will be hosted by the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao through its Department of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on October 21-24.

With the theme, “Sustainability and Innovation for Parks and People—Celebrating 35 years of ASEAN Heritage Parks”, the conference aims to improve the AHP network and strengthen camaraderie among park managers, AHP Committee, ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity members, as well as selected stakeholders and partners. The conference will also be an opportunity to share good protected area management practices, biodiversity-based products, and the challenges being faced by the AHPs.

“I hope that we all get inspired by the good protected area management practices presented by some of our colleagues. We should all be doing our best to conserve these premier protected areas, not just to give a sense of pride to the country, but also for the other nine AMS as one ASEAN community,” said, on the other hand, by Norma Molinyawe, chief of Protected Area Resources of the National Parks Division (PAR-NPD) of the BMB.

The AHP Programme contributes to the achievement of Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 which states that, “By 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscape and seascape.”

Other non-AHP protected areas were also invited to share their experiences in Sustainable Financing and Livelihood, Protected Area Management Planning and Implementation, and Species Conservation.

These protected areas are Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, Pasonanca National Park, Mts. Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape, and Apo Island Protected Landscape and Seascape.

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