Forest guards needed to protect island’s nature park
posted 30-Jul-2018  ·  
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The recently-declared Catanduanes Natural Park needs at least 12 forest rangers as well as an undetermined number of support personnel if the largest remaining forest block in the Bicol region is to be protected from human predators.

Ideally, one forest ranger guards a maximum of 4,000 hectares of forest, meaning the park’s 48,924.09 hectares would need 12 such rangers plus a complement of crew members to be able to patrol such a large area and monitor any violations of forest laws, rules and regulations.

According to a source, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) at San Isidro Village, Virac has 10 forest rangers and a tree marker.

While it has several foresters, all except two – Cyril Magdaraog and Noel Popa - are from outside Catanduanes. All the foresters have been assigned other tasks apart from their duty to help safeguard the forest ecosystem. PENRO also has just one forestry technician and one Supervising Ecosystems Management Specialist.

Forest rangers are not graduates of a forestry course but are rather high school or college graduates with some knowledge of tree species identification, scaling and forest patrolling, while the tree marker position is set to be abolished once the current holder retires.

On the other hand, both Magdaraog and Popa are products of the University of the Philippines Los Baños campus where they took the difficult five-year course.

It is claimed that to finish the course, one has to be a jack-of-all-trades as he would handle not only the forest but the people and the environment. He must also be physically and mentally fit. Of the 130 students that enrolled in first year, only 38 of them graduated with the degree in Bachelor of Science in Forestry, one UPLB graduate disclosed.

In the Bicol region, only the Bicol University College of Agriculture and Forestry (BUCAF) offers a BS Forestry course. The Catanduanes State University used to have an agroforestry course, for which some PENRO foresters taught subjects, but the course was reportedly shelved years ago for lack of enrollees.

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