PAMB mulls reopening of Mt. Hamiguitan to visitors

DAVAO CITY, July 9 (PNA) — The reopening of Mt. Hamiguitan is a work in progress as the Davao Oriental province with the three involved municipalities try to pool resources in coming up with policies in compliance with the seven-point agenda prescribed by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).

In a discussion with Ruel D. Colong, protected area supervisor of Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR XI), he stressed that only when the seven-point agenda for the mountain range are addressed then it will allow visitors to enter the area, which is currently open only for researchers and scientists.

The reopening is covered by PAMB Ordinance 2010-03, he said. The closure was passed for purposes of working on the site’s inscription to the UNESCO’s World Heritage as embodied under PAMB Ordinance 2010-02.

He said the agenda includes the clean-up drive, determination of carrying capacity, identification of alternative tourism sites, trails assessment, development of camp sites, group mountaineering and trekking ordinance.

“Once these conditions are complied, the newly declared World Heritage site will be opened to visitors but on limited capacity,” Colong said during the Davao Business Forum organized by DermPath, SM City Davao and San Miguel PureFoods.

He added that there are certain conditions that must be adopted, including the prescribed carrying capacity which only allows 30 heads to climb at the peak where the mossy pygmy trees are located.

He said there has to be proper briefing for those who will climb up on site.

As to tourism aspect like looking for nature adventure, trekking and mountaineering, “This has to be organized and properly supervised if only to protect and preserve the site,” he said.

The mountain has five vegetation sites aside from the mossy pygmy such as the agro-ecosystem site, dipterocap site, the montane site and the typical mossy site.

At the mossy pygmy site, one can stand like a giant where trees grow only at knee or bust-high of species like Almacega, Tinikaran, White Lauan, Red Lauan and other hard wood trees like Yakal, Narra.

Coverage of the pygmy forest is about 1,234 hectares while another 200 hectares is where the bonsai field is located.

Colong, who described Mt. Hamiguitan as a complete set of intact mountain ecosystem, said his involvement of the site for inscription as World Heritage of UNESCO is an “experience of a lifetime.”

Colong heads a team that handled the technical and scientific documentation of Mt. Hamiguitan which is packaged in four volumes of documents detailing Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary.

He said before they were able to come up with the details they need to take several trips to the mountain passing through the three entry points in Mati, Boston and Governor Generoso. Several studies were also conducted on site.

He said the documentation passed several editing and revision including the expansion of sites so as to include a buffer zone that would protect the heritage site and also the nesting site of the Philippine Eagle which was not included in the original area that was submitted for the declaration.

He said the works for the inscription by the UNESCO took place when a serial nomination was submitted for both Mt. Apo and Mt. Hamiguitan in 2008.

But after the August 2009 stakeholders meeting, there came about an intent to separation or divorce considering that Mt. Hagimuitan only covers three towns while Mt. Apo is within seven municipal territories and Davao City, thus the Document Dossier Preparation Team was formed where Colong was tasked to head the technical and scientific job preparation.

The tentative listing happened in December 2009. And the validation on site took place October 2012, headed by a biologist, Dr, Nayomi Daok.

After completing several recommendations based on the validation conducted by Dr. Daok, the Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary was officially inscribed June 23, 2014 during the 38th session by the World Heritage Committee in Doha, Qatar from June 15 to 25.

Colong said Mt. Hamiguitan is an ultramafic terrain giving rise to ultramafic forest. He said a site to be inscribed needs to have Outstanding Universal Value– meaning, the site is at par if not the best around the world.

The scientific study in the mountain has not stopped even as he said that several studies were already done in the past, foremost of this was the one conducted in 2005 by Dr. Victor Amoroso of the Central Mindanao University in collaboration with the University of the Philippines Mindanao and the University of Southern Mindanao of Kabacan for the Comprehensive Biodiversity Assessment.

A German scientist, Dr. Thomas Gronomyer, an expert on pitcher plant who said that of the eight kinds of pitcher plant in the world, three of these varieties can only be found in Mt. Hamiguitan namely Nepenthes Peltata, N. Micramphora, N. Hamiguitanensis.

Right now, he said there are several studies being done now on site and results of the study will form part of the new data for the mountain range.

Although he did not give details, he said they are working on another inscription for Mt. Hamiguitan. Once the data are complete, they will formally submit their bid within the year. (PNA)