Mt. Isarog has nomination into UNESCO biosphere reserve program

The mighty Mt. Isarog serves as backdrop as seen from the San Miguel bay shoreline at Barangay Sta. Rosa, Calabanga during a clean-up drive by CBSUA teachers. Photo credit: Helen A. Ramos.

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 24 –- Mt. Isarog and its abundant resources and wildlife has been nominated into the biosphere reserve program of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The nomination sponsored by the DENR seeks international recognition for the Mt. Isarog Natural Park and its surrounding areas of terrestrial ecosystems within Camarines Sur as a site where conservation of biodiversity is reconciled with its sustainable use, DENR Regional Executive Director Gilbert Gonzales said here on Tuesday.

Biosphere reserves serve in some ways as “living laboratories” for testing out and demonstrating integrated management of land, water and biodiversity.

Collectively, biosphere reserves form the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Within this network, exchanges of information, experience and personnel are facilitated.

There are over 500 biosphere reserves in over 100 countries and two of them, Palawan and Puerto Galera, are in the Philippines.

According to the UNESCO, each biosphere reserve is intended to fulfill three basic functions, which are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

These are conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation; development to foster economic and human development which is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable; and logistic to provide support for research, monitoring, education and information exchange related to local, national and global issues of conservation and development.

The biosphere reserve concept, the UN organization says, is usable as a framework to guide and reinforce projects to enhance people’s livelihoods and ensure environmental sustainability.

The designation of a site as a biosphere reserve can raise awareness among local people, citizens and government authorities on environmental and development issues.

It can also help to attract additional funding from different sources while at the national level, biosphere reserves can serve as pilot sites or ‘learning places’ to explore and demonstrate approaches to conservation and sustainable development, providing lessons which can be applied elsewhere.

In addition, they are a concrete means for countries to implement Agenda 21, the Convention on Biological Diversity such as the Ecosystem Approach, Millennium Development Goals like environmental sustainability and the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

UNESCO does not require any change in law or ownership as each biosphere reserve has its own system of governance to ensure it meets its functions and objectives.

The management system needs to be open, evolving and adaptive in order for the local community to better respond to external political, economic and social pressures, which would affect the ecological and cultural values of the area.

Hence, it is necessary to set up an appropriate governance mechanism (a committee or board) to plan and coordinate all the activities of all the actors concerned, each within their own mandate and competence.

Usually a biosphere reserve coordinator is named as the contact person for all matters dealing with the biosphere reserve.

In the case of the MINP, the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA), which prepared the nomination document containing comprehensive description of the biological, socio-economic, cultural and other important details regarding the nomination, will serve as the secretariat of the CamSur Biosphere Reserve Council.

When accepted by the UNESCO into the program, MINP, with the city of Naga and the towns of Calabanga, Goa, Ocampo, Pili, Tinambac and Tigaon that cover its over 10,100-hectare area, will comprise the core and buffer zones of the reserve.

The core zone is a strict protection zone while the buffer zone provides area for sustainable development, according to Gonzales.

The park where Mt. Isarog, an inactive volcano, rises as the highest forested peak in Southern Luzon, is rich in diversity of flora and fauna being home to at least 143 kinds of birds, 15 of which are endemic to Luzon — including a sub-species of the Velvet-fronted Nuthatch which is found only in the area.

Rich in diversity, the park harbors 1,300 known species of plants, including hardwood trees, mosses, ferns and orchids.

A recent study by the CBSUA based in Pili town shows that nine other Camarines Sur towns of Bombon, Bula, Camaligan, Lagonoy, Libmanan, Magarao, Milaor, Sangay and San Jose are bio-geographically linked with the proposed core zone, thus, they will comprise the transition zone.

The biosphere reserve, hence, will be about 107,000 hectares, it said.

“We are optimistic that UNESCO will consider the nomination supported by local government units, private sectors, members of the academe and the DENR’s Protected Area Management Board,” Gonzales said.

When that happens, Camarines Sur would become part of the world network of biosphere reserves around the globe and internationally recognized as learning site that showcases a harmonious co-relation while enjoining community-based endeavors to promote conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, he added. (PNA)


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