DENR Sec. Lopez backs Catanduanes Natural Park
posted 18-Sep-2016  ·  
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In a positive development for the island’s fragile environment, Congressman Cesar Sarmiento has secured the support of Secretary Gina Lopez of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the declaration of the Catanduanes Natural Park (CNP).

Sec. Lopez, whose backing came during the DENR’s budget briefing for the House of Representatives last week, said that, for the meantime while the law is not yet in place, the DENR will fast-track the issuance of a Presidential Proclamation for the CNP and provide a budget for the Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign to involve every stakeholder. The CNP is the expanded version of the Catanduanes Watershed Forest Reserve (CWFR), from the original 26,000 hectares to 48,831 hectares, and is the main source of food, water supply and abaca for the islanders.

The CWFR is a protected area by virtue of Proclamation No. 123 issued on June 23, 1987, with penalties poised against those who commit prohibited acts including hunting, destroying, disturbing or mere possession of any plants or animals or products derived therefrom without permit from the government.

A field validation conducted by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) and DENR V Land Evaluation Party found the CWFR suitable for proclamation under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) owing to its old-growth forest consisting mostly of Dipterocarp or hardwood species. It also covers 10 municipalities including Bagamanoc, Baras, Caramoran, Gigmoto, Pandan, Panganiban, San Andres, San Miguel, Viga, and Virac. The watershed forest reserve has potable water that support domestic and agricultural uses and could supply sufficient water for energy generation. It also harbors important plant and animal species in habitats fit for recreation and adventure.

But while the area offers opportunities for growth, the DENR said it is also beset with challenges such as timber poaching, slash-and burn farming, changing land use, siltation, wildlife poaching, among others. Setting aside the large area for protection will secure resources required by present and future generations of humans, the department said, as well as mean greater protection of the reserve and the wildlife plant and animal species present in the area.

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