ASEAN declares Tubbataha Reefs as heritage park
CEBU – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN) has declared Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park ( TRNP) as an ASEAN Heritage Park ( AHP), making it the 35th AHP to date. In a ceremony held in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan, the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity ( ACB) formally handed the certificate of the AHP Declaration to the representatives of the TRNP Management Office.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park also serves as the first marine-based AHP in the Philippines.
The nomination of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park was approved by the environment ministers of the 10 ASEAN Member States at the 15th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment held in October last year.
Known as an “ultimate diving destination” in the Philippines, the park boasts of a wide array of marine biodiversity. The newest ASEAN Heritage Park is home to almost 80% of all coral species in the Philippines and to at least half of all coral species in the world.
It has 10,000 hectares of coral reef and at least 86,000 hectares of surrounding waters right at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the center of global marine biodiversity. In 1993, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Angelique Songco, Protected Area Superintendent of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park said that the declaration assured the management team that they have been doing the right thing. “We hope we can serve as a role model to other marine natural parks.”
She noted the need to be more vigilant in protecting the richness and beauty of Tubbataha.
Nelson Devanadera, Director of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, said this is a welcome development adding that there is a “need to highlight Tubbataha not just as a diving site, but as a biodiversity haven that is worth exploring for a total unique experience.”
He stressed that this also opens an opportunity to replicate the good practices of Tubbataha in other protected areas in the Philippines.
Atty. Roberto V. Oliva, ACB Executive Director, also said that Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park – the 7th AHP in the Philippines – “is a testament of this country’s rich natural resources and biological diversity. This also underscores the need to conserve the park as it benefits the entire Southeast Asian region.”
Oliva explained that the AHP Programme supports the management of a regional network of national protected areas of high conservation importance that provides a complete spectrum of respective ecosystems to generate greater awareness, pride, appreciation, enjoyment, and conservation of ASEAN’s rich biodiversity.
ACB serves as the secretariat of the AHP Program.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park joined the ranks of other AHPs in the Philippines – Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve in Laguna province, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental province, Mt. Iglit- Baco National Park in Mindoro province, Mt. Apo Natural Park in Davao, Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Bukidnon, and Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park in Misamis Occidental.