Board Member Ryan Maminta has urged local government units sharing boundaries on the Victoria-Anepahan Mountain Range (VMAR) in central Palawan to work for its delineation as a protected area.
Maminta proposed that a special body be formed for the purpose by representatives from Puerto Princesa City and the municipalities of Aborlan, Narra, and Quezon.
He said an “inter-local government unit (LGU) alliance” is needed to formulate strategies and programs to conserve the mountain range, which is one of four key biodiversity areas (KBA) in southern mainland Palawan.
“The LGUs, in my view, should partner together in this advocacy and institute cooperative and collaborative undertaking to protect and conserve VAMR. The Local Government Code (LGC) provides for that in Section 33. They can form an Inter-LGU alliance. The body should be with multi-sectoral membership to tackle the strategies and programs to push for conservation and protection of the Victoria-Anepahan mountain range,” Maminta said.
He said protection of the VMAR can only be realized through the participation, collaboration, and cooperation of multi-stakeholders.
“We believe the concerned municipalities play a crucial role in achieving this aim and in mobilizing various stakeholders to play a pro-active and supportive role in institutionalizing the conservation of VAMR,” he said.
Various scientific studies have shown that VAMR has a highly significant level of biodiversity and has a 41.18 percent endemism in terms of flora and fauna, where about 31 percent of the species are of high conservation significance globally, he pointed out.
Maminta said the VAMR has one of the remaining large tracks of forests that are open due to the absence of any proactive management scheme and plan at the landscape level.
He added that the protection of VAMR’s biodiversity will ensure that opportunities for the socioeconomic improvement of the upland and lowland communities, such as indigenous peoples, farmers, and irrigators, are also protected.
Under, Section 33 of RA 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, LGUs are authorized and allowed to enter into cooperative undertakings through an agreement in order to pursue joint sustainable management, enforcement of laws, protection, conservation and even restoration of key biodiversity areas such as the Victoria-Anepahan Mountain Range.
He also said that through appropriate ordinances, the LGUs may consolidate or coordinate their efforts, services, and resources for purposes commonly beneficial to them.
“In support of such undertakings, the local government units involved may, upon approval by the Sanggunian concerned after a public hearing conducted for the purpose, contribute funds, real estate, equipment, and other kinds of property and appoint or assign personnel under such terms and conditions as may be agreed upon by the participating local units through memoranda of agreement (MOA),” he said.
Maminta said there is also a need to strictly enforce on VAMR the various laws on protected areas and biodiversity, including the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan (SEP) or Republic Act No. 7611 and the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) law or Republic Act No. 7586, he said.
“This is to encourage and enjoin the municipalities of Quezon, Narra, Aborlan and the City of Puerto Princesa through their elected leaders to join together in the protection and conservation of the Victoria-Anepahan Mountain Range or VAMR since the role of LGUs are critical and their cooperation or collaboration is important,” he said.
He said this should be done with the help of the provincial government and national agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), and concerned non-government organizations.