Image courtesy of CARFormoso

Cleopatra’s Needle and Critical Habitat (CNCH), touted to be the country’s “biggest” critical habitat, turned three on Wednesday (December 15), marking expanded efforts in biodiversity conservation.

The Centre for Sustainability (CS) Philippines, in a press statement issued on Wednesday, announced that the “ongoing conservation” efforts under the supervision of the Cleopatra’s Needle Management Committee, chaired by Puerto Princesa City mayor Lucilo Bayron, would continue.

“We hope you’ll join us in celebrating this joyous milestone toward the continuing protection of our magnificent natural environment, and our local communities ever more empowered to protect it for our future generations,” read the CS statement.

Declared as a “pristine forest”, Cleopatra’s Needle was adopted as critical habitat for Palawan flora and fauna based on Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) Resolution No. 17-612 in 2017, under Republic Act No. 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

In a separate Facebook post from lawyer Carlo Gomez, chief of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), the Protect Wildlife Project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the city government approved the management plan of CNCH, aimed to help reduce habitat destruction, wildlife poaching and trade, and other environmental degradation, while targeting to place 141,296 hectares of biologically significant areas under improved natural resource management.

“The turnover was conducted at the Office of the City Mayor during the Protect Wildlife Project’s Close Out Session, since the project will terminate on December 31, 2020,” the Facebook statement read.

The Protect Wildlife was launched in 2016 as a multi-pronged program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that worked to conserve biodiversity, protect wildlife, and sustain ecosystem services in ways that also improved the local population’s livelihoods and long-term well-being.

Present during the activity were Jeanne Tabangay, site manager of USAID-Protect Wildlife Project and Cristina Flores of USAID-Protect Wildlife; Senior Environmental Management Specialist (SEMS) Zorina Arellano and Ms. Hazzel Valones of the Office of the City ENRO; and Elizabeth Maclang of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP).

The CNCH management plan was approved on August 20, 2020, by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) presided by Bayron as the chairman.

One of the strategies identified in the CNCH management plan is the improvement of governance and institutionalization of the management body through the creation of a management office.

In CNCH, it is expected to achieve optimum protection and care of the area to safeguard the threatened wildlife and its habitat and ensure sustaining the flow of nature’s ecological services that benefit humans, as manifested in its vision.

“Maayos na naproprotektahan at napangangalagaang mga nanganganib na buhay ilang at kanilang mga tirahan at napapanatiling daloy ng mga serbisyo ng kapaligiran para sa kapakanan ng mga komunidad at iba pang stakeholders, sa pamamagitan ng epektibo at sama-samang pamamahala,” the CNCH vision said.

CNCH, considered as the oldest and most diverse forest, is one of the country’s biggest critical habitats covering an area of more than 41,000 hectares and Palawan’s second-highest peak at 1,593 meters above sea level.

It covers the barangays of San Rafael, Tanabag, Langogan, Binduyan, Concepcion, New Panggangan, and Tagabinet. It is also the home of threatened endemic wildlife species, thus, its declaration as critical habitat is vital to the survival of these species.

Gomez also said that the CNCH is the first in Puerto Princesa City to be declared as such. (with news write up from Envi Geri)