Pygmy forest, waterfalls, sunrise, and a lighthouse in Davao Oriental

BusinessWorld Online
Carmelito Q. Francisco
November 27, 2014

DAVAO ORIENTAL, one of the four provinces in the Davao Region, was recently in the news as its Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary made it to the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The 6,834-hectare mountain range, home to a centuries-old pygmy forest and rare flora and fauna, is now being developed by the local government as one of the four priority eco-tourism sites.

The other three are the Aliwagwag Protected Landscape, Pusan Point, and Cape San Agustin.

“We are also identifying the tourism potentials of each town,” said Governor Corazon N. Malanyaon, who initiated the Mt. Hamiguitan UNESCO Heritage list application in 2007.

The province has 10 towns and one city, Mati, which is also the capital.

For Mt. Hamiguitan, the provincial government has already secured P20 million in funding from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority for the establishment of facilities within the three-hectare buffer zone at the foot of the mountain.

Restricted access will be maintained at the heritage site itself, which is one of the few remaining habitats of the endangered Philippine Eagle.

Janet M. Lopoz, executive director of the Mindanao Development Authority, said funding has also been set for the development of the Aliwagwag Protected Landscape, whose main features are a waterfall and forest areas that attract at least 64 bird species.

Pusan Point, meanwhile, is in the area of Caraga which the weather bureau identified as the first to witness the so-called Millennium Sunrise on Jan. 1, 2000.

Ms. Malanyaon said that the provincial government, with the help of the Department of Public Works and Highways, has been developing the road going to the viewpoint area at the eastern side of Mindanao island.

OLDEST LIGHTHOUSE
Cape San Agustin, home to the oldest known lighthouse in Mindanao, is located at the tip of Governor Generoso town and considered a historical site — Saint Francis Xavier is said to have held mass there in 1550.

In recent years, Mati City has also become a popular beach destination, particularly for surfing.

“We have become among the most visited provinces in the country,” Ms. Malanyaon said.

The province also holds the distinction of being the first local government unit in the country whose tourism master plan was mandated by a law for inclusion in the Department of Tourism’s national tourism plan.

GUARDIANS OF THE FOREST
On Nov. 7, The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Forest Management Bureau and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with the local governments of Davao Oriental and the municipalities of Caraga, Manay and Tarragona for the implementation of the REDD+ program (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries).

Davao Oriental, the second site identified by the DENR for REDD+ activities, was chosen specifically because of the presence of indigenous peoples (IPs), who are considered guardians of the forests.

REDD+ is an international initiative aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the protection of forests, including tree planting activities and proper land use planning, also to protect the rights of forest dwellers.

The MoA, signed as part of the celebration for the Philippines-Germany 60 years of diplomatic relations, aims to strengthen coordination between the national and local government units on forest protection and sustainable forest management by, among others, reducing shifting cultivation and timber poaching, in support of the National Greening Program.

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