GABALDON, NUEVA ECIJA, January 22, 2004 (STAR) By Manny Galvez - A biodioversity corridor is being proposed by an international environmental organization to effectively protect and sustainably manage the biological resources of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges spanning nine provinces in Luzon.

Mayor Dominador Mandia said the project, named Sierra Madre Biodiversity Corridor (SMBC), is being pushed by Conservation International Philippines (CIP) to arrest and reverse the loss of biodiversity by putting the whole stretch of the Sierra Madre mountain range into a solid block of highly protected biodiversity conservation area.

The CIP is actively involved in promoting conservation activities with key decision makers at the national level in partnership with government institutions and non government organizations.

A biodiversity corridor refers to a large, interconnected network of protected areas that seeks to main-tain the ecosystems and the evolutionary process of biodiversity of tropical ecosystems.

The proposed SMBC will cover Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya in Region 2, Aurora, Nueva Ecija and Bulacan in Region 3 and Quezon and Rizal in Region 4.

The CIP is also spearheading terrestrial and marine biodiversity undertakings in the Calamianes region in Northern Palawan.

Mandia said the CIP is including in the project the Madulag ecotourism site in Barangay Ligaya. The municipal council, led by Vice Mayor Rolando Bue, has passed a resolution allowing conservation of the area to be included as a national park.

A program implementation plan for the proposed SMBC furnished The STAR showed that the biodiversity corridor project intends to establish in the long-term biodiversity conservation and protection by building a corridor implementation support framework, create and extend individual protected areas to form the corridor and reverse the loss of biodiversity by tapping the participation of stakeholders to coordinate natural resource use planning and management in sup-port of biodiversity conservation.

Among the existing protected areas that will be strengthened under the implementation plan are the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park (NSMNP), Aurora Memorial National Park (AMNP) and other management units like the community based forest management (CBFM).

Michael de Guia, CIP program site coordinator, said the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of the AMNP and the community environment and natural resources office (CENRO) in Nueva Ecija have both endorsed the extension of the AMNP.

The corridor project plans to explore conservation linkages of the existing management systems in the nine provinces.

The plan also calls for the restoration and rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems, protection of important habitats and watershed areas and addressing the socio-economic needs of local communities within the SMBC and its adjoining buffer zone.

The CIP said the country is exceptionally rich in biological diversity and is thus, considered part of the elite group of "mega-diversity" countries in the world.

The rain forests of these islands have the highest level of endemism on a per unit area basis, which however is not fully documented, with more species of vertebrates discovered annually than any other comprarable area on earth.

The rarest and the second largest eagle in the world, the Philippine eagle, is found only in this region where there are 201 species of mammals, 556 species of birds, over 85 species of amphibians and 252 species of reptiles of which 48 percent is endemic. Of the coun-try’s 12,000 species of plants, 50 percent is endemic.

Marine biodiversity characterizes the country which is situated at the heart of the coral triangle: 488 coral species in 78 genera out of the 700 known coral species worldwide. The marine ecosystems also contain 2,000 species of fish and 16 species mangrove plants, thus, making it one of the richest concentration of marine life in the world.

It is feared that of the remaining forests in the country will be cut down and only 30 percent of plant and animal species will survive by 2050. It is also feared that mudslides flowing over denuded fields and silt washing into rivers and lagoons will destroy fisheries.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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