Apayao gears up for its inscription as UNESCO biosphere reserve

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LUNA, Apayao – Governor Elias C. Bulut, Jr. vowed to push through with the proposed inscription of Apayao as one of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves of the Philippines after the members of the technical working group from Apayao collaborated and had an orientation at UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines.

Bulut expressed his gratitude to UNESCO Secretary General Lila Ramos-Shahani for the kind assistance they provided to the members of the technical working group headed by Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator Engr. Henry Caluducan with the assistance of Director of Research Conservation Philippine Eagle Foundation Jayson Ibañez who visited their office on January 18 in Manila.

According to Bulut, the guidance and inputs imparted by UNESCO Deputy Executive Director II Lindsay Barrientos and Development Officer IV Gay Alfred Blanco have inspired them to push through with the nomination. He is optimistic that through the full support of the present and upcoming administration and all the stakeholders of the Province of Apayao they can submit all the necessary documents and comply with the processes on time.

In his letter, Bulut also requested for the usual technical support from UNESCO staff and welcomes further interactions with them through invitations to seminars and meetings. “In line with our desire to have Apayao inscribed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve next to Albay, Palawan and Puerto Gallera, may we request your unrelenting generous technical support as we undergo the nomination and screening processes necessary. We would greatly value any invitations to seminars or for orientations/meetings which your office might further extend.”

Engr. Caluducan said they will be targeting the preparation of the needed nomination dossier by July 30 and to eye the submission of final nomination dossier to Man and Biosphere Committee on or before September 2019, the scheduled deadlines by UNESCO.

In connection with the proposed inscription process, there will be a mammal survey (frogs and rats) on February 6 to March 1 at Mt. Sicapoo, Kabugao, Apayao. According to Marcelo Menor, OIC PGO-ENR, there will also be another survey to be undertaken by Kansas University this summer. The technical working group will also meet on February 11 for the tasking in writing the dossier.

Bulut through an Executive Order has organized in 2017 a taskforce purposely organized to speed up the processes necessary for the proposed Apayao’s nomination as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in which he is the Chairman while the Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Officer as the Vice Chairman. The Executive Order has been issued encouraging the active participation of all the members concerned including its technical working group.

The members of the taskforce are the Representative of the Province, all mayors, all Community ENR Officers, Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator, Provincial Assessor, Provincial Tourism Officer, Chairman-Committee on ENR of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Head ENR Division under Governor’s Office, DILG Provincial Director, NCIP Provincial Officer, District Engineers, SDS DepEd Apayao, Apayao State College President, Representatives of the Philippine Eagle Foundation, United States Forest Service, Watershed Rehabilitation and Developers Association, Head of National Irrigation Association and Representatives from NGOs and CSOs.

Apayao has the potential to be tagged as one of UNESCO labeled biosphere reserves in the country for its vast and virgin forest still intact besides the presence of Philippine eagle in some area such as the Municipality of Calanasan.

“The Apayao Province key biodiversity area (KBA) is one of 12 globally recognized KBA’s in Northern Luzon. The forest cover of the Apayao KBA is estimated at about 170,000 hectares in which the seven towns are part of the KBA,” Ibañez said.

BY GERRIAHZON S. SEBASTIAN

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