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Arroyo Expands Peñablanca Protected Area

November 2003

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed a presidential proclamation in October expanding the Peŕablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape (PPLS) from 4,136 hectares to 118,108 hectares.

The expansion of the PPLS, which lies adjacent to the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, brings a total of 476,558 hectares of forest under conservation management.

"This area will be the largest block of forest under conservation management in the Philippines and provide habitat for most the threatened endemics in Luzon, including the critically endangered Philippine eagle," said Susie Ellis, vice president for Conservation International's (CI) Indonesia and Philippines programs.

"This landscape is a critical addition to the Sierra Madre Biodiversity Corridor we are working to create and manage with our partners."

The CI Philippines Program worked with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to provide a biological justification for expanding the protected area and develop an initial protected area plan, with CEPF support funding biological surveys and other key activities in the area.

Small-scale illegal logging, wildlife hunting and legal but poorly managed community-based forestry projects were seriously degrading the area's globally significant biodiversity.

Not seen for five years, a pair of Philippines Eagle was spotted in late spring during a survey along the northern boundary of PPLS and the Cagayan block of the corridor. The biological surveys also resulted in the discovery of new species of frog and gekko. Such sightings made a significant contribution to the case for expansion.

The forest cover in the Sierra Madre Corridor is the most extensive in the Philippines—about 1.4 million hectares, accounting for 25 percent of the country's forest resources, including more than 40 percent of the remaining old growth forests. The corridor is also home to 42 percent of the total threatened species of Philippine flora.

In related news, the Cagayan provincial government recently declared the Cagayan forest block of the corridor as protected seascape and landscape and then allocated P1.8M ($33,000) for this most northernmost block of the corridor. The governor hopes this allocation will attract more conservation investment into the area such as that from CEPF.

"Raising awareness with local government officials about the value of the ecosystem services provided by Penablanca's forests to the agricultural sector of the Cagayan Valley Region brought support from key local officials and the communities that benefit from watershed protection," Ellis said.

"This success demonstrates the value of the corridor concept in reconciling conservation and development priorities at the regional scale, as well as the importance of combining sound science and economics to achieve results on the ground."

The Sierra Madre Biodiversity Corridor is envisioned to ultimately encompass 1.8 million hectares across nine provinces. It is one of three geographic focal areas for CEPF investment in the Philippines biodiversity hotspot.

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© CI, photo by Haroldo Castro
The terrestrial side of the Sierra Madre Biodiversity Corridor is largely defined by the Sierra Madre mountain range (above), the "backbone of Luzon" and the longest mountain range in the country.

A survey team recently recorded the first sighting of the critically endangered Philippine eagle in the Peñablanca forests in five years. Read the story.

Learn more about the Philippines and other biodiversity hotspots on CI's award-winning Web site, www.biodiversityhotspots.org.

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Photo credits for banner images: (Frog) © CI, Haroldo Castro; (Chameleon) © CI, Russell A. Mittermeier