Forests of Hope site - Mount Irid-Angelo, Philippines
Site name: Mount Irid-Angelo
Location: Bulacan, Quezon and Rizal Provinces, Luzon island
Site area: 135,257 ha; initial Forests of Hope target 35,000 ha
Values of the site
Luzon, the largest of the Philippine islands, is so biologically distinctive that it qualifies as an Endemic Bird Area in its own right. Three main mountain ranges are most important for endemic wildlife, and one of these is the Sierra Madre. Mount Irid and Mount Angelo are two neighbouring mountains in the southern Sierra Madre, around 40 km North-East of Manila, capital city of the Philippines.
The Sierra Madre contains one of the largest remaining forest blocks and one of the richest wildlife communities known from any forest area in the Philippines. A significant stand of old-growth dipterocarp forest has been located there, and the mountains are high enough to support areas of montane forest, as well as the extensive lowland forests on their slopes. Initial surveys in the area have revealed 88 bird and 17 mammal species, of which over 40% are endemic. These forests are home to the magnificent, Critically Endangered Philippine Eagle Pithecophaga jefferyi.
The Sierra Madre forests are extremely important in providing ecosystem services on which dense human populations also depend. The Sierra Madre is the water catchment of Manila; through hydro power, it provides a major part of the electricity supply. The area is also home to large numbers of indigenous people and supports their forest-based livelihoods. The forests provide protection against landslides, which occur with increasing frequency, apparently related to deforestation and climate change.
In the Sierra Madre, 83% of the forest present in the 1930s had been lost by the 1990s, with most of the remainder under logging concessions. Key threats to the site include:
- Illegal logging
- Small scale mining
- Slash and burn agriculture (locally known as kaingin)
- Road construction
- Proposed development of large dams
- Unregulated collection of non-timber products
- Wildlife hunting (pet trade and subsistence)
Historical conservation approach
Over much of the site, there has effectively been no conservation approach per se. A wide range of land tenure instruments are in place, including two Protected Areas declared by Presidential Proclamation in the 1970s (total of 42,375 ha but with little or no management or law enforcement), two Watershed Reservations (covering 50,000 ha), two areas with Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claims (166,000 ha of land and marine area of General Nakar District, Quezon), and a privately titled land area dating to Spanish times (Green Circle Resources Properties Inc., around 50,000 ha). The site is managed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 3 municipalities, the Protected Area Management Board and the Kanan Watershed Management Council.
New conservation approach
The Haribon Foundation (BirdLife in the Philippines) has identified a well-forested area of 30-40,000 ha in the Irid-Angelo Mountains, which is Production Forest gazetted under a special category that promotes restoration of degraded areas, indicating that legal obstacles that hinder restoration of production forest in other countries could be avoided.
There is strong support for protecting and restoring the forest. Almost a thousand people died in a landslide nearby in 2004 and the logging concession concerned was revoked through the efforts of local people.
The opportunity for the conservation of these forests comes from the possibility to cancel Integrated Forest Management Agreements and Timber License Agreements; the areas concerned could instead be proposed as extensions to existing Protected Areas under a new management category for restoration. This model is similar to what has been achieved by the BirdLife Partnership at Harapan Rainforest in Indonesia. This would allow the implementation of activities to reforest and restore degraded forest working with a variety of different stakeholders.
Programme implementation has begun. In key areas, local communities and indigenous peoples, with support from the Haribon Foundation, are implementing forest restoration (‘rainforestation’) and environment-friendly livelihoods like bio-intensive vegetable gardens, organic and agroforestry farming. The Haribon Foundation has helped three Local Government Units to prepare comprehensive land and water use plans highlighting the landscape-seascape approach. An Important Bird Area Monitoring System is being established to support recommendation of new policies and increase awareness and support at the local level in both IBAs.
The combination of high biodiversity value, strong local support for sustainable forest management, and potentially high carbon emissions reductions (through both forest restoration and avoided deforestation over large areas) are significant factors that could contribute to a very successful conservation programme for these important forests.
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