No hunting, mining within Catanduanes Natural Park
posted 16-Jul-2018  ·  
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Hunting and other human activities, as well as mining and quarrying. are now prohibited within the newly-declared Catanduanes Natural Park encompassing nine of the island’s 11 municipalities.

Under Republic Act 11038, or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018, which was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte last June 22, hunting, collecting, possession, killing or disturbing wildlife within the 48,924.09 hectares of the park are prohibited, along with the cutting, gathering timber and other forest products.

Mineral exploration or extraction is also banned within the protected area, along with commercial or large scale quarrying, the law states.

Also banned by the law in the island park as well as 91 other parks included in the declaration are illegal fishing, dumping of toxic chemicals and noxious substances or wastes, operation of motor vehicles except for transportation purposes, altering or removing boundary markers, engaging in “kaingin” or slash-and-burn farming, littering, occupation or construction of structures without clearance, treasure hunting, introduction of exotic species including Genetically-Modified Organisms, and bio-prospecting without prior clearance from the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).

The Act provides penalties ranging from P50,000.00 to as much as P6 million for specific violations aside from imprisonment ranging from six to 12 years or both at the discretion of the Courts.

The conviction of a government official for any violation of the law shall also carry the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from public office.

However, all property and private rights within the protected area and its buffer zones already existing or vested upon the effectivity of the Act shall be protected and respected, provided that the exercise of such rights shall be harmonized with the provisions of the Act.

Within 60 days, an inventory of all existing facilities such as roads, buildings, structures, water systems, transmission lines, communications facilities, heavy equipment and irrigation facilities within the protected area will be conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Located within the park are three mini-hydroelectric power plants, cell sites, water systems and irrigations facilities.

The PAMB, with the assistance of DENR, may impose conditions for the continuous operation of a facility found to be detrimental to the protected area until its eventual relocation. However, existing facilities allowed to remain inside the area shall be charged a reasonable fee by the PAMB based on existing guidelines.

“It is hereby recognized that these areas, although distinct in features, possess ecological values that may be incorporated into a holistic plan to conserve and protect our natural heritage,” the Act stated, referring to the 90 protected areas. “The use and enjoyment of these protected areas must be consistent with the principles of biological diversity and sustainable development.”

One of the co-authors of the bill, Congressman Cesar Sarmiento, expressed elation with the establishment of the natural park which he described as a victory for the environment and the people.

With the expansion of the protected area from the previous 26,010 hectares to the present 48,924.09 hectares, it would make more secure the supply of water for domestic use and assure a reliable supply of electricity from the hydroelectric power plants, he said.

“Our abaca plantations, wildlife and varied trees and plants would be protected from illegal activities like indiscriminate cutting,” the congressman stressed.

He assured that he would monitor the programs and activities of the DENR regional officials and the members of the PAMB to be created.

It may be recalled that in 2011, the members of the Catanduanes Sustainable Ecosystems Development, Inc. (ECODEV) petitioned then President Benigno Aquino III to cause the conversion of the then existing watershed reservation into the Catanduanes Natural Park.

The petitioners deplored the alarming scenario in which the vast flora and fauna were in a degenerative state due to uncontrolled human activities, leading to a gradual decline in the quality and quantity of ground water, surface water and other essential ecosystem services.

The petition likewise appealed to the leaders at the time – Governor Joseph Cua and Cong. Sarmiento – to exhort the DENR to act for the immediate establishment of the park.

The largest remaining forest in Bicol is home to many threatened and restricted-range wildlife, including the Luzon bleeding heart pigeon, Philippine nectar bat, large Rufous horseshoe bat, mottle-winged flying fox, Southern Luzon giant cloud rat, Philippine warty pig, and Philippine brown deer.

In the Bicol region, the brown deer is found only on the island, in which the Catanduanes narrow-mouthed frog only occurs.

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