World Heritage listing proposed for Mt. Apo

Posted on March 04, 2013

DAVAO CITY -- The city government is taking the lead to declare Mt. Apo a World Heritage Site to accelerate its protection and rehabilitation.

Last Friday, officials of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) from Manila visited the city for a series of meetings with local government executives.

It was agreed upon at the meeting that a task force will be created to craft action plan, said businessman Philip D. Dizon, who was designated to head the task force.

"This actually started last year when Mayor Sara [Duterte-Carpio] asked me if it’s possible to contact UNESCO and because of that request, I communicated with the UNESCO office in Manila which gave me leads on who to talk to," he said.

The meeting last March 1 also touched on the general points and also the commitment of the local government units, including with support from local government units North Cotabato and Davao del Sur, to draw up the action plan.

Mr. Dizon, whose family is into agribusiness and tourism, also noted the need to enact ordinances that will ensure the action plan’s continuity beyond the three-year term of local officials, including an annual budget for the preservation of Mt. Apo.

Orly L. Escarilla, Museo Dabaw officer-in-charge and the Davao City government’s point person on the plan, said all stakeholders have been informed on the nomination process for the World Heritage Site list.

Mt. Apo, the country’s tallest peak at 2,954 meters, was identified as a national park under Proclamation No. 59 signed by President Manuel L. Quezon on May 9, 1936.

Nine years ago, Republic Act No. 9237 was enacted which declared the site as a natural park and protected area covering nearly 55,000 hectares along with over 9,000 hectares of buffer zone. It’s also home to the Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi).

But the mountain’s resources are constantly under threat of degradation from mountaineers and tourists, human encroachment as well as slash-and-burn farming preferred by some indigenous people living near the area, particularly in Kapatagan, Digos City in Davao del Sur.

Mr. Dizon said Kapatagan is itself a controversial issue as it is a village, with its own local government, within a natural park.

Having the mountain declared as a World Heritage Site will also open access to foreign conservation funding sources.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources had proposed Mt. Apo’s inclusion to the UNESCO list on Dec. 12, 2009.

"This is a long and laborious process, I think it’s going to take five to seven years before Mt. Apo can be included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site but we have to start now," Mr. Dizon said. -- J. B. Escovilla