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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, August 21, 2017
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with ERROL A. GATUMBATO
OPINIONS

Celebrating Mt. Kanla-on Day

The Mount Kanla-on Natural Park in Negros Island will officially launch its inaugural festival, dubbed “Halad kay Kang-Laon” in Sitio Guintubdan, Barangay Araal, La Carlota City today.

The event is in commemoration of the passage of the MKNP Act of 2001, or Republic Act 9154, which declared the former Mount Canlaon National Park as part of the National Integrated Protected Areas System of the Philippines. The La Carlota City government, led by Mayor Luis Jalandoni, will host the event while other government units covering the MKNP will also participate in the festival.

The passage of the MKNP Act was somehow controversial, primarily due to the inclusion of a provision on buffer zone, solely for geothermal energy development. Section 5 of RA 9154 sliced 169 hectares from the original boundary of the park and declared it as a buffer zone. In spite of the geothermal issue, I think, it is only appropriate to commemorate the approval of the MKNP Act as it offers other provisions that are promising, and some of these are now in place and being implemented by the Protected Area Management Board and the office of the Protected Area Superintendent of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Since the NIPAS Act, or RA 7586, was passed in 1992, the Congress has separately declared only 13 out of more than 200 protected areas in the Philippines. The MKNP was, in fact, one of the 10 pilot sites for the implementation of the NIPAS Act under the World Bank funded Conservation of Priority Protected Areas Project of the DENR, from 1995 to 2002.

The PAMB, composed of representatives from different LGUs covering the MKNP and nongovernment and people's organizations, should also be recognized for effectively functioning as the site-based policy and administrative body of the protected area. It has enacted numerous pioneering regulations that are serving as examples for other protected areas in the country.

The MKNP PAMB has instituted co-management system with the cities of La Carlota and Bago for ecotourism development, while its enacted mountaineering policy is widely known. The different working committees of the PAMB are similarly functional.

The efforts of the PAMB would not be possible if not also for the support and guidance of the DENR. Since then, the different regional directors of the DENR Region 6 and later on Negros Island Region, one after the other, have been active as chair of the PAMB. In some protected areas, the presence of the PAMB chairperson could hardly be felt on the ground. Although some changes in the structure had been introduced by the DENR, it is important to note that the MKNP is one of the protected areas in the Philippines where the park office is in place and operational, and efficiently serving as the secretariat to the operations of the PAMB.

RA 9154 requires the creation of a regular position for the PASu of the MKNP. As far as I know, such position was included when the DENR has implemented the rationalization of its structure and personnel, but the DENR Region 6 in Iloilo has retained the post. When the NIR was established, former DENR NIR director Al Orolfo designated the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of Bago City as the PASu of the MKNP at the same time. This arrangement is still the same, to date.

What is even more interesting in the MKNP is the sustained participation of the different communities in the management of the area. The Kanla-on Green Brigades are still there in the forefront in biodiversity protection and monitoring, fire prevention and suppression, and guiding and porter services. Some communities are also engaged in forest restoration and implementation of non-destructive livelihood.

One of the remaining key issues in the MKNP is the presence of communities in the area with no land tenure security. Many of these communities are entitled to become tenured migrants and may avail of the Protected Area Community Resource Based Management Agreement with the DENR. This land tenure arrangement will serve as social buffer zone since communities are required to implement protection and restoration efforts in the MKNP. *


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