Jun 06, 2008
There are mountains and mountains to climb in the Philippines but among the "must-climb" mountains, following in the heels of the country's famous mountains - Mt. Apo (the highest peak in the Philippines), Mt. Mayon (our perfect cone volcano), and one or two others that are well known technical climbs, is our Mt. Kanlaon. Nowhere is Kanlaon an easy trek up so to reach the crater is no mean accomplishment. But what makes the mountain special to mountaineers is that unlike the mostly barren slopes of Mt. Mayon, Mt. Pulag, etc., Mt. Kanlaon is covered with more than 9,000 hectares of forest. These forests abound with flora and fauna, including many rare and endangered species, and the music of running water accompany parts of every trek. The forests of Sitio Pataan and Sitio Kinabkaban, where the proposed PNOC site is located, is considered as Negros' finest due to the presence of centuries old and ecologically-threatened premium species such as almaciga, red and white lauan, tanguile, igem, etc. The 169 hectare PNOC buffer zone is 95% old growth primary forest that per hectare, constitute a stock of approximately 1,000 trees with a minimum diameter of 20 cm.
Only 3-4% of the primary growth forests of the province remain. Of this, 25% (approx. 9,000 hectares) can be found in Mt. Kanla-on. The preservation of the remaining forests is important in maintaining the ecological balance of the province and the enhancement of its agricultural productivity 3 major river systems originate from Mt. Kanla-on -Bago, Nahalin, and Binalbagan. 6 rivers in San Carlos City originate from Mt. Kanla-on. 3/4 of the park belongs to the Bago Watershed which has been proclaimed as a critical watershed by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 604 of 1990. Tributaries of Bago River, the biggest in Negros Occ. originate from the proposed PNOC buffer zone in Sitio Pataan, Mailum, Bago City. The river systems of Mt. Kanla-on provide water to 158,500 hectares of land in Negros Occidental. The biodiversity of Mt. Kanla-on is recognized worldwide because of its high endemism and presence of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. One of the 10 priority sites for conservation (out of 342 sites), the following may be said of the Natural Park:
·It is one of the Endemic Bird Areas of the world according to Birdlife International w/ one species, the Negros Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus arcanus), a globally-endangered species found only in Mt. Kanla-on
·It is one of the 18 Centers of Plant Diversity in the Philippines due to its species richness and endemism
·It is part of the national patrimony being a National Park since 1934 and it is one of the most important protected areas in the Philippines
·discovery of a very rare and important species of flora
·Rafflesia Speciosa. The world's largest flower is classified as threatened species to extinction in the wild. The specimen was found within the 169 hectares declared MKNP buffer zone for geothermal development.
In the 169 hectares that have been set aside by law for PNOC-EDC's geothermal development we find:
·lowland dipterocarp forest and mixed second growth forest"
· At least 69 species of flora which have not been identified to the species level
·discovery of very rare and important specie, Rafflesia Speciosa
·3,192 large woody trees in the way of the proposed road system
·4,734 trees at the proposed well pads
·10 most important species of trees are found in the area
· 124 species of fauna (54 endemic in the Philippines and 8 in the Negros-Panay geo-regions) were documented in the area Ecological Significance: Our Moral Obligation to Defend
-Maunsell Philippines' biodiversity study of the 169-ha Buffer Zone of the MKNP (commissioned by the PNOC-EDC), affirms the need to protect the declared buffer zone of MKNP from any form of destruction. The 169 hectares are high in biological diversity with valuable and priceless species of flora and fauna, some of which face severe threat of extinction in the wild. The findings of the study (commissioned by PNOC-EDC) serve as concrete scientific data that the buffer zone should be reclassified as strict protection zone
-The study reveals that the buffer zone is a critical wildlife habitat to numerous endemic species of flora and fauna (many of which are threatened to extinction in the wild!). There are highly threatened species with global significance. These flora and fauna have other ecological functions that are socially, culturally and economically beneficial to the island of Negros PNOC-EDC's project inside the park is inconsistent with the very purpose of Mount Kanla-on as a protected area. The project runs counter to the guidelines of the DENR for threatened plant species. Cutting of naturally growing trees in protected areas and their buffer zones is supposedly prohibited. This is especially true with respect to threatened species such as Almaciga. Giving PNOC-EDC cutting permits has serious policy implications. It also demoralizes our forest warden volunteers (Task Force Ilahas and Kanlaon Green Brigade) The establishment of the buffer zone for PNOC is contrary to the concept and objectives of a buffer zone as defined in the NIPAS Act. The PNOC project threatens the watershed capacity of MKNP and would directly affect four river systems in the area through cutting of ecologically valuable trees. Allowing the PNOC to encroach in the park for energy development will jeopardize the integrity of MKNP as one of the Conservation priority areas of the Philippines.
The Wildlife Resources and Conservation Act of the Philippines (RA 9147) prohibits destruction and /or disturbance of known critical wildlife habitats. We have a shrinking forest and our discussion should be on how to reforest rather than deforest. The argument of responding to the energy crisis in the future is valid, but what about the argument of responding to the watershed and environmental crisis today? We cannot afford to commit another mistake by subjecting Mt. Kanlaon to euthanasia. What if PNOC does not find sufficient geothermal energy in the 12.5 hectares that it initially seeks to build on? More than 140 hectares of the buffer zone remain. And if 169 hectares of primary forest can be sacrificed in the name of progress, a few more hectares will not matter if the geothermal source is further inside the protected area. With the privitization of the Energy Development Corporation (it dropped the PNOC), a portion of Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park is for all intents and purposes, already owned by a private corporation. Can we make Mt. Kanlaon available for sale? Allowing PNOC-EDC to continue operating in the area is tantamount to subdividing Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park for commercial purposes.
Further tampering of Mt. Kanlaon is a blatant violation of Nipas law, Watershed law, Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park law, and the Wildlife Resources and Conservation Act of the Philippines (RA 9147) ... The benefits and importance of the natural forest like that found in Mt. Kanlaon CANNOT BE REPLACED AND/OR COMPENSATED through artificial means. ONCE destroyed, IT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO REPLACE.
Every Negrense grows up in the shadow of Mount Kanlaon. The Volcano, one of the most active in the Philippines, the highest peak in the Visayas region, is also a mountain holy to us. To the ancient Visayans, not only to Negrenses but also to the inhabitants of the neighboring islands of Cebu and Panay, Kanlaon was the home of Laon (Ancient One), the Supreme Creator Goddess. Sorjanos, as we call local shamans, congregate in secret forest areas on special occassions in order to commune with the spirits of nature, renew their powers, and gather substances for their healing art. Folklore also has it that a number of non-human, non-animal beings live in the mountain, adding to the mountain's mystique.