Mayors Celsa Adier of Aborlan, Joselito Ayala of Quezon, and Gerandy Danao of Narra virtually sign the MOA to protect and sustainably managed the Victoria-Anepahan Mountain Range on April 22, 2022. (Photo from Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff)

Three municipalities in southern Palawan have teamed up to sign an agreement aimed at improving the Victoria-Anepahan Mountain Range’s (VAMR) conservation and sustainable management.

The mountain range, covering 164,789 hectares, is within the political jurisdictions of the municipal governments of Aborlan, Narra, Quezon, and Puerto Princesa City. It is designated as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) due to its remarkable range of unique species and extensive environmental integrity.

A press statement shared to the media by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) said the signing of the agreement happened on April 22, 2022.

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File photo of the Victoria-Anepahan Mountan Range from Student Alliance Southeast Asia via change.org

It was witnessed by PCSDS executive director Teodoro Jose S. Matta, deputy executive director Atty. Adelina B. Benavente-Villena, DILG provincial director Virgilio L. Tagle, together with members of the VAMR Technical Working Group from ELAC, IDEAS, PNNI, PG-ENRO, WPU, NCIP, PENRO, and KFI. The PCSDS subsequently facilitated the physical signing of the agreement.

In accordance with this objective, the three municipal mayors issued a joint executive order on May 4, 2022, establishing the Victoria-Anepahan Mountain Range Management and Planning Board. This planning board is comprised of the mayors of Aborlan, Narra, and Quezon, as well as representatives from PCSDS, DENR, NGOs/CSOs, NCIP, and the academe.

In addition, the Board shall pursue an all-encompassing, sustainable development based on robust economies, equitable social systems, and healthy ecosystems.

PCSDS stated that as a KBA, the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed by incumbent mayors Celsa Adier of Aborlan, Gerandy Danao of Narra, and Joselito Ayala of Quezon, ensures that various ecosystem services will be provided, such as food and water production, nutrient cycling, water purification, spiritual and educational services, and climate regulation, among many others.

To maintain these services and solve the issues facing VAMR, the various stakeholders have undertaken a number of initiatives, among others a strategizing workshop meeting in March 2015, a high-level forum in October 2019, and a series of consultation workshops with indigenous peoples (IP) communities.

The workshop on strategy prepared the basis for the discussion of identified challenges and impacts within the mountain range, as well as potential management interventions. Subsequently, a number of seminars, forums, and community consultations were held to discuss numerous aspects of developing a management framework for VAMR.

The high-level forum in 2019 was started with participation from several LGUs, government agencies, the VAMR Technical Working Group, and IP community leaders. During this forum, incumbent board member Ryan Maminta presented the initial draft of the inter-LGU MOA, which was then reviewed by the participants.

The statement said further that a series of consultation workshops, headed by Maminta, were also held to ensure that the VAMR initiative is understood by the various IP groups in the involved areas.

The Sangguniang Bayan of the three LGUs issued resolutions authorizing their respective municipal chief executives to enter into a MOA in support of the conservation, protection, and sustainable management of VAMR following the previously stated events and activities.

The three municipalities agreed to intensify the protection and sustainable management of the Victoria-Anepahan Mountain Range, more commonly known as VAMR. The VAMR is within the political jurisdiction of the Local Government Units of Aborlan, Narra, Quezon, and Puerto Princesa City.

The area, covering an estimated 164,789 hectares, was identified as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) because of its outstanding diversity of unique species and its widely intact ecosystem.

As a KBA, it ensures that different ecosystem services are provided, such as food and water production, nutrient cycling, water purification, spiritual and educational services, and climate regulation, among many others. To sustain these services and to address the challenges VAMR is facing, the different stakeholders undertook several initiatives, such as, among others:

a. A strategizing workshop meeting conducted on March 10, 2015, that paved the way for the discussion about the various issues and impacts identified within the VAMR, and the possible management interventions for the area. Thereafter, several meetings, forums, and community consultations tackling multiple aspects of creating a management framework for VAMR were conducted.

b. On October 17, 2019, a high-level forum was initiated and was participated by the different LGUs, government agencies, the VAMR Technical Working Group, and representatives from the different IP communities. During this forum, Honorable Board Member Ryan D. Maminta presented the first draft of the inter-LGU MOA, and the participants reviewed the said draft MOA.

c. To ensure that the VAMR initiative is understood by the various IP communities in the areas concerned, a series of consultation workshops, led by Board Member Ryan Maminta, were also held.

Following the above-mentioned events and activities, the municipal Sangguniang Bayan of the 3 LGUs issued resolutions authorizing their respective municipal chief executives to enter into a memorandum of agreement (MOA), in support of the conservation, protection, and sustainable management of VAMR.

The virtual MOA signing ceremony was then held on April 22, 2022, and was witnessed by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff Executive Director Atty. Teodoro Jose S. Matta, Deputy Executive Director Atty. Adelina B. Benavente-Villena, DILG Provincial Director Virgilio L. Tagle, together with members of the VAMR Technical Working Group from ELAC, IDEAS, PNNI, PG-ENRO, WPU, NCIP, PENRO, and KFI. Subsequently, the PCSDS facilitated the physical signing of the MOA.

In line with this endeavor, a joint Executive Order was signed last May 4, 2022, by the three municipal Mayors to create the Victoria-Anepahan Mountain Range Management and Planning Board. The said planning board is composed of the respective Mayor of the municipalities of Aborlan, Narra, and Quezon, and a representative from PCSDS, DENR, NGO/CSO, NCIP, and Academe. Further, it shall be the policy of the Board to pursue a holistic, sustainable development founded on vigorous economies, equitable social systems, and healthy ecosystems.

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