Naturalist Eco-Guiding Training to help Mt. Hamiguitan Keep World Heritage Status

The Department of Tourism (DoT) stressed the importance of continuously conducting naturalist eco-guiding training to ensure that Mt. Hamiguitan in Davao Oriental maintains its status as a world heritage site.

Mt. Hamiguitan in Davao Oriental was officially inscribed in the UNESCO world heritage list during the 38th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Qatar last June, making it the 6th world heritage site in the Philippines. However, it is not an assurance that such honor cannot be revoked.

World Heritage Sites in Philippines

Site nameEntered
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park1993
Baroque Churches of the Philippines1993
Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras1995
Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park1999
Historic Town of Vigan1999
Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary2014

“The local government has to manage the mountain properly to keep it from being delisted in the UNESCO list,” said Cynthia B. Rodriguez, tourism consultant and overall coordinator of the Mt. Hamiguitan Team of Davao Oriental.

The latest training conducted by the DOT and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was the seven-day Naturalist Ecoguiding Training Program in August.

DoT Assistant Secretary Arturo P. Boncato, Jr. said they also conducted a similar Program in October 2012 for Mt. Apo, where only 20 of the 30 participants passed the rigid training.

He said this training is one of several major prerequisites to the conditional opening of the mountain range.

“Participants of the Naturalist Ecoguiding Training Program, who are from the City of Mati and the Municipalities of San Isidro and Governor Generoso in Davao Oriental, have undergone lectures and practical applications during the training,” Boncato said.

Mount Hamiguitan fulfilled a criterion proving its Outstanding Universal Value, which celebrates “the most important and significant natural habitats for in-site conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

Mt. Hamiguitan has been closed to the public since five years when the local government first started its campaign to get it inscribed as a heritage site but it continues to be closed for adventure trekking and other entertainment tourism purposes for an undetermined period until such time that its protection is ensured. Ms. Rodriguez said the carrying capacity of the mountain is only 30 persons per month.

"There are many species of flora and fauna at the mountain that are still not known and some do not even have names yet so it is important to preserve them before they get destroyed by humans,” Rodriguez said.

While the mountain will be open to scientists, researchers and partners in the advocacy to preserve the mountain, access will be very strict. The local government once allowed the entry of foreign researchers in the area prior to the listing but it turned out disadvantageous since there were allegations that these researchers got some species of the pitcher plant which were endemic to the area and then brought them out of the country.

To satiate the curiosity of the world who may be interested to see what’s inside Mt. Hamiguitan, the local government is planning to build an interpretative center at the foothills of Mt. Hamiguitan to allow visitors a chance to experience the mountain and see the famous pygmy forest without necessarily endangering the mountain. The plan is to set up the first center in San Isidro but depending on the financing they can get, they also want to establish centers in Mati City and Governor Generoso as these areas straddle the mountain.

Rodriguez said they are completing their proposal to the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) to get funding for the construction of the interpretative centers. For the San Isidro center which is expected to start this year, they are eyeing a three to five hectare lot either in Cawa-cawa where there are waterfalls and other activities like horseback and carabao-riding or in Tumalite which is being eyed as a climbers station once the site is opened up for tourists.

As a long term plan, the local government plans to construct boardwalks and stations where people can actually visit Mt. Hamiguitan without endangering its flora and fauna. This plan requires the formation of a Foundation which will manage the preservation of the mountain no matter if there is a change in the political scenery in the province.

The local government is not however worried that the closure will lessen the interest of tourists in Davao Oriental since there are many reefs and ridges to explore including Aliwagwag Falls and Dahican Beach. They have also started to develop tourism circuits to make sure that the almost three-hour ride from Davao City to Davao Oriental is adventure-filled. (PNA)CTB/LCM/Lovely A. Carillo/ldp

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