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Mt. Kitanglad Natural Park: showcase of Philippines’ biodiversity, natural heritage

Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park (MKRNP), site of one of the few remaining rainforests in the Philippines and a protected area in Bukidnon, northern Mindanao, hosts some of rarest plant and animal wildlife, including the critically endangered Philippine Eagle. 

The MKRNP – total land area 47,270 hectares – was declared a Protected Area in 2000 and an ASEAN Heritage Park (AHP) in 2009. 

MKRNP is considered the best example of natural heritage among protected areas not only in the Philippines but also in the region. 

Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) Executive Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim describes MKRNP as “one of the last bastions of the Philippines’s unique biodiversity and natural heritage.” 

“It hosts rare and endemic wildlife, including the Philippine Eagle. It is home to 168 bird species, 131 butterflies, and 63 mammals, 17 of which are endemic,” added Lim, a former director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau. 

According to Lim, MKRNP is also essential to the lives of the communities as it provides water for irrigation, power generation and domestic use for residents of Bukidnon and the province of Misamis Oriental. It is the catchment area of the Cagayan, Tagoloan and Pulangi river system. 

“Before the pandemic, the park had vibrant tourism activities with its evergreen and montane forests, grasslands, wetlands and caves, drawing in hikers, campers and bird watchers,” she said. 

There is a wealth of indigenous knowledge in Mt. Kitanglad being the ancestral domain of the Talaandig, Higaonon and Bukidnon ethnolinguistic groups, Lim added. 

The ACB has been supporting Mt. Kitanglad, along with two other AHPs in Region 10—Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park, and Mts. Timpoong Hibok-hibok Natural Monument—through a project that helps develop and improve the parks’ web sites and online booking systems. 

The MKRNP provides various ecosystem services that range from water for domestic, agricultural, industrial and commercial use. These ecosystem services benefit more than 100,000 households living around MKRNP, including neighboring towns and cities like Cagayan de Oro City. 

According to the DENR, Mount Kitanglad hosts over 600 rare and endemic species. Besides the Philippine Eagle, the Philippine Tarsier is known to inhabit the AHP. MKRNP is also home to Rafflesia, the second largest flower in the world. 

However, MKRNP is threatened by various destructive human activities like slash-and-burn farming, unsustainable charcoal production, illegal tree cutting and forest fires. 

According to the DENR, about 1,100 hectares of Mt. Kitanglad’s forest have been degrading annually. The degradation is evident in the headwaters of Mt. Kitanglad watersheds. 

Intrusion of timber poachers is regarded as the biggest threat. Thus, MKRNP Protected Area Superintendent (PASu) Daniel F. Somera said government has forged ties with the Kitanglad Guard Volunteers (KGV), the Forest Foundation Philippines and Holcim Philippines Inc., to protect and conserve MKRNP. 

The partnership aims to plant more than 300 hectares of coffee, abaca and bamboo as a sustainable agroforestry system. 

Somera said the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) has been cooperating with upland communities to protect the park using local residents as volunteers. More than 400 volunteers from KGV now serve as contractors of the DENR’s National Greening Program.

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