GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Efforts to declare the critical Mt. Busa mountain range in Sarangani province into a national protected area have finally gained ground before the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the House of Representatives.
Cornelio Ramirez, executive director of the Sarangani Environmental Conservation and Protection Center (ECPC), said Tuesday the DENR central office has started the assessment of the proposed measure as a strategy to further protect and conserve the mountain range and its watershed.
He said the move complements the recent filing of House Bill 9055 authored by Sarangani Rep. Rogelio Pacquiao that seeks the declaration of the 114,000-hectare mountain range straddling the municipalities of Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum into a protected landscape.
The measure was introduced on first reading on Monday (March 22), and referred to the House committee on natural resources.
Ramirez said they already submitted to the DENR-Region 12 and its central office the necessary documents and other requirements for the proposed declaration.
He said they gave a technical presentation to concerned officials of the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau the results of the joint Protected Area Suitability Assessment (PASA) on Mt. Busa complex and its immediate watershed areas.
The assessment was facilitated by the Mt. Busa Conservation Task Force, which is supported by the Sulong Kalikasan program of Gov. Steve Chiongbian Solon.
Ramirez, who heads the task force, said the PASA mainly cites the need to properly protect Mt. Busa and its resources from various destructive activities and developments.
He said studies showed that the mountain range has been continuously threatened by land conversion activities, kaingin or slash-and-burn farming, wildlife hunting, illegal logging and mining.
“Its declaration into a protected area will add more teeth to the protection efforts and the enforcement of various environmental laws,” he told reporters.
The proposed law also provides for the allocation of regular funds from local and national governments that will help strengthen the implementation of conservation programs for the site, he said.
Mt. Busa is a declared key biodiversity and important bird area, and home to critically-endangered, threatened and vulnerable birds and other wildlife species.
ECPC said the area is a known habitat of some 434 rare animals and birds, among them the Philippine eagle. At least 18 flora and fauna species, including exotic orchids, are thriving in its mossy forest.
Once approved, the proposed protected area would be the second for the province after the Sarangani Bay Protected Landscape, which was declared in 1996 by then President Fidel Ramos through Proclamation No. 756.
Sarangani Bay was among the 94 protected areas in the country that were declared as national parks in 2018 under Republic Act 11038, or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte. (PNA)