Bundok Banahaw project
Mt. Banahaw and San Cristobal, (now Mount Banahaw San Cristobal Protected Landscape), plays a vital role in the economy, culture, religious and health of the people of the provinces of Laguna and Quezon. The Mountain is also an important biological conservation area as it is the habitat of an array of unique and rare wildlife are a testimony of an island once almost completely covered with natural vegetation before the forest were exchanged for what we now call development.
In Banahaw, rare, endangered and threatened wildlife species like the flame-breasted fruit dove - locally called punay - the hornbill or kalaw, the many-colored flycatcher, mammals like the deer and wild boar or baboy damo, owls like the hawk owl and the Luzon Scoops Owl, different varieties of the cloud rat and little studied varieties of frogs, eels and snakes indicate the health of the last remaining 1 to 1.5% virgin forest of Southern Luzon.
Frogs, eels, snakes and deer indicate the health of the water sources of Banahaw's ecosystem. Birds, monkeys, deer and wild boar, being fruit-eaters, play a vital role in seed dispersal that ensures the propagation of the forest. But their existence is increasingly fragile. It has been observed that they are extremely sensitive to changes and disturbances in their habitat and prefer to leave if these are disturbed. It has also been observed that the fruit dove and the hornbill, being monogamous, are slow to multiply. Given these, their populations are slowly dwindling under human encroachment.
The point must be made that many of Banahaw’s endemic species, if not already extinct, are now rare and may die out. Many of them, like the punay and the kalaw, cannot live in an altered ecosystem. Species that took thousands of years to evolve in a specialized ecosystem could crumble in one to five years under the increasing encroachment of humans without knowledge for appreciation of the value of the forest eco-system and its teeming life forms.
As to the effect the absence of proper management of Mts. Banahaw and San Cristobal as mandated by NIPAS Act of 1995 through Protected Area Management Board with full participation of the peoples and the local governments in the foothills of Mts. Banahaw and San Cristobal , the direct impact of the inhabitants in the remaining 1.5% virgin forest will surely increase with the alarming human encroachment that could wreak irreversible damage, given our present situation that access to resources are inequitable, that resulted into injustices of one or a few against the greatest number that in the end, risking their life and choose to live at the upland rather than living in the lowland wherein the access to land for them to live was uncertain. Also to mention that urbanized Filipino's propensity to consider animals as food, objects for sport and trophies of his hunting ability.
To this date, given the absence of pro-active implementation of environmental laws to protect Mts. Banahaw and San Cristobal we estimate that since those rare animals have an average life span from 5 to 20 years, Banahaw's wildlife could slowly die out, never to be seen again, if no firm parameters and wise policies recognizing the urbanized Filipino's lack of awareness are adopted and enforced. Apart from the values of beauty and joy they bring to humans who have a fellow-feeling towards them, the potential negative evolutionary consequences of allowing the extinction of species which propagate the life of the forest are grave indeed.
As it is, we estimate that in the Philippines, our remaining forests are worth only 10 more years, unlike our neighbor Indonesia, still has a hundred years worth of forests.
We might add that only does the Banahaw watershed extending to Tayabas Bay shelter and nourish species endemic to the Philippines but also serves as a feeding station and summer migration area for birds native to the temperate region such as birds of Alaska, Siberia, China and Japan. This watershed is therefore "a corridor of life" for the world of wildlife.
Furthermore, Mts. Banahaw & San Cristobal is an active volcano in ignoring its potential eruption in the future and which eruption may be expected to be highly explosive, with devastating impacts on people and the environment because Banahaw has remained in repose for 259 years, and for excluding volcanic and other geological hazards as part of the planning process, more and more people and expensive infrastructure would be unnecessarily put at risk.
Given the above situation there is a need for immediate intervention in the area. PO’s and NGO’s such as the KABANAHAW, Tayabas Mountaineers, Luntiang Alyansa para sa Bundok Banahaw and also an academic institution which is Southern Luzon Polytechnic College, Lucban, Quezon have been trying to do their share by organizing and educating the peoples specially the Tenure migrants in the area for the purpose of making them responsible stewards of their immediate resources. Yet lack of equitable access to resources helplessly lessen the impact of these efforts. If not together defeat the same. Instead, the vicious cycle of resource destruction and poverty only faster. Obviously, much still needs to be done. We need to recognize that Banahaw is precarious and or fragile or explosives as a volcano that can put the life and all other life forms and inhabitants around it’s foot hills into extinction. Therefore the need for ecologically sound biodiversity conservation and sustainable resource management will be put in place as a challenges to go forward.
Our 1987 Constitution provides avenues for the right of the people to a health and balanced ecology as well as for mandates preferential rights for the poor, particularly the subsistence tenured migrants. The laws give life to these policies by granting essential peoples participation in the Protected Area Management Board or PAMB. But the description above depicts otherwise. This then, is a loophole which, when viewed in the positive perspective, is a window for intervention that might help resolve the problem.
This paper proposes to equip the members of PAMB such as: line agencies, local government units, peoples organizations, non-government organizations in Mts. Banahaw and San Cristobal with knowledge and skills that hopefully help creating a policy environment that promotes effective law enforcement as well as ecologically-sound and equitable resource utilization and management.
To be effective, however, consideration must be given to the fact that the area in question is an upland where various municipalities of two province such as: Laguna and Quezon share the same ecosystems. It is, thus necessary that the project cover the municipalities and communities that surround the Mts. Banahaw and San Cristobal. However, considering the geographical locations as well as resource limitations we proposed that other project activity implementation in the third phase will focus on the capacitating of the PAMB to generate local and international resources and continue the Capacity Building activities that push-through for the realization of Banahaw Protected Area Act.