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First Posted on Inside Mindanao (www.insidemindanao.com) on August 15, 2008

From the forest to the sea: The need to protect Mt. Hamiguitan,
Pujada Bay and Cape San Agustin

By Ellen Red

"Nagatoo kami sa balaod sa kinaiyahan nga nagtakda nga ang tanang butang sa kalibutan magkalambigitay. Ang kadaut nga mahitabo sa kalasangan makadaut usab sa kadagatan (We believe in the laws of nature which direct that all things in this world are connected. The destruction of the forest also destroys the sea)."

SAN ISIDRO, DAVAO ORIENTAL—Scientists recently found an unknown aquatic plant specie at Mt. Hamiguitan, a mountain which straddles on two municipalities, San Isidro and Governor Generoso, and the city of Mati; all in the province of Davao Oriental.


Unknown specie of bladderwort
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Ellen Red

In an expedition conducted in July 2008 to Mt. Hamiguitan, Dr. Thomas Gronemeyer, biochemist; Stewart McPherson, geologist; and Volker Heinrich, agricultural scientist reported that the finding of a so far unknown aquatic plant specie of bladderwort (genus Utricularia) promotes the assumption that "more species of either carnivorous plants, orchids, or even mammals can be found in unexplored areas of the Hamiguitan massive."

The scientists also reported that two species of carnivorous pitcher plants, N. peltata and N. spec H, seem to be endemic to Mt. Hamiguitan.

"The fact that two... species (N. peltata and N. spec H) seem to be endemic to Mt. Hamiguitan underlines the importance of the protection of the whole area," the scientists said in their report.

Pitcher Plant Pitcher Plant Pitcher Plant Pitcher Plant
Pitcher Plants
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Jojie Jasmin Cabasan

MT. HAMIGUITAN
In 2004, Mt. Hamiguitan Range, containing an area of approximately 6,834 hectares, was declared under Republic Act 9303 as a protected area under the category of wildlife sanctuary and its peripheral areas as buffer zone.

Mt. Hamiguitan Range is the headwater of different streams and creeks which are sources of water for agriculture and domestic use in the towns of San Isidro, Governor Generoso, and Mati City.

With its highest peak recorded at 5,345 feet above sea level, Mt. Hamiguitan is home to Tinagong Dagat (Hidden Lake), Hidden Garden, Twin Falls, and Bonsai or Pygmy Forest. Mt. Hamiguitan has about 1,000 hectares of bonsai or pygmy trees. These centuries old bonsai trees, dwarfed by nature due to limited nutrients, stand as short as one foot.

Tinagong Dagat
Tinagong Dagat
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Jojie Jasmin Cabasan
Hidden Garden
Hidden Garden
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Jojie Jasmin Cabasan
Twin Falls
Twin Falls
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Jojie Jasmin Cabasan

Bonsai Forest
Bonsai Forest
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Hilario Cahilog
Bonsai Tree
Bonsai Tree
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Ellen Red


In 2007, a survey conducted by botanists and biologists from Central Mindanao University, Davao Oriental State College of Science and Technology, and local researchers found 89 species of butterflies at Mt. Hamiguitan.


Butterfly
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Jojie Jasmin Cabasan

"This richness in butterfly species implies that the mountain range still provides a good habitat for Rhopaloceran insects," the botanists and biologists from the two educational institutions and local researchers reported.

"Butterflies are one group of insects that are considered as indicators of good quality environment. Butterflies feed mainly on nectar making them the second most important pollinators, next to the bees. As all other small animals, these insects provide links in the flow of energy from the plants to the consumers in the food web," the report added.

In 2006, another research study, this time inventory of plants, was conducted by botanists and biologists from Central Mindanao University and Davao Oriental State College of Science and Technology. They found 163 endemic, 34 threatened, 33 rare, and 204 economically important species of flora at Mt. Hamiguitan Range.

Fruit of Almaciga Tree
Fruit of Almaciga Tree
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Jojie Jasmin Cabasan
Lady slipper orchid
Lady slipper orchid
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Jojie Jasmin Cabasan
Centipede orchid
Centipede orchid
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Jojie Jasmin Cabasan


"It was found out that this mountain range is the habitat of six species of pitcher plants, which is 50% of the total number of Nepenthes in the Philippines," the botanists and biologists from the two educational institutions said.

The botanists and biologists from the two educational institutions added that "five vegetation types of Mt. Hamiguitan are habitats of threatened, endemic, rare and economically important species of plants and should be given high priority for protection and conservation.... "

The Philippine Eagle Society also confirmed Mt. Hamiguitan to be the home to the endangered national bird, the Philippine Eagle.

Rai Gomez, field biologist who joined an expedition in 2004 that studied the plants and animals of Mt. Hamiguitan Wildlife Sanctuary reported that the expedition found 104 birds, 16 frogs, 19 lizards and snakes, 16 bats, and 6 rodents. Of these, 32 birds, 5 rodents, 6 bats, 12 frogs, 8 snakes and lizards are found only in the Philippines.

Frog
Frog
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Jojie Jasmin Cabasan
Eagle
Eagle
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Jojie Jasmin Cabasan
Lina's sunbird
Lina's sunbird
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Ellen Red


The participants of the 2004 expedition also said that there is a need to increase the area of the Mt. Hamiguitan Wildlife Sanctuary as the existing sanctuary does not cover an adequate representation of the biological and habitat diversity. The group added that the present sanctuary excluded most of the dipterocarp forest, the richest in terms of species diversity.

Satellite image taken in 2003 indicated that there could be about 31,000 hectares of forest left for the Mt. Hamiguitan Range.

MINING
In 2004, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources granted a mining permit to seven domestic mining companies. The mining permit covers about 17,000 hectares straddling in the towns of San Isidro and Governor Generoso; and Mati City. These mining companies later sold their rights to Filipino–owned Asiaticus Management Corp. (AMCOR).

AMCOR entered into a joint venture agreement with foreign–owned BHP Billiton. Since July 2007, AMCOR and BHP Billiton have been locked up in a legal battle.

A non–government organization, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Mutli–Stakeholders Council, reported that "the approved Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (mining permit) contract area partly straddles at Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary and in fact, was not spared of mineral exploration activities such as drilling and boring, a blatant violation of Republic Act 9303 and Republic Act 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Law."

Locals in the area reported that for them even the base camp of the mining company, AMCOR, located in the barangay or village of Macambol in Mati City is just a three–hour walk to Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary.

Peak of Mt. Hamiguitan overlooking Pujada Bay
Peak of Mt. Hamiguitan
overlooking Pujada Bay
Location: Mt. Hamiguitan
Photo by Ellen Red
Pujada Bay with Mt. Hamiguitan Range as its backdrop
Pujada Bay with
Mt. Hamiguitan Range as its backdrop
Location: Pujada Bay
Photo by Jojie Jasmin Cabasan


Even the buffer zone of the Philippine Eagle Sanctuary situated in the villages of Cabuaya and Luban, all in Mati City, was not spared. This, as the Philippine Eagle Sanctuary is also included as part of the contract mining area of AMCOR.

Virginia Granada, chairperson of Siete Altaris Farmers Association, Inc. and a member of Mt. Hamiguitan Protected Area Management Board, said, "Gipanghingusgan namo nga dili gyud mabutangan ug minahan (ang Mt. Hamiguintan ug kasigbit nga dapit) nga maoy maka-distruso gyud sa kinaiyahan (We are campaigning that no mining operation be conducted [at Mt. Hamiguitan and its vicinities] as this only brings forth destruction to the environment)."

Datu Manaol, one of the tribal leaders in Mati City, said in an interview that they were able to stop the logging operation in the buffer zone of Mt. Hamiguitan for just a year of campaign (in 2001).

Since 2002 up to this day, Datu Manaol said they have struggled anew to stop the mining operation in their area.

"Perting lisura. Kini nga struggle, murag gikapoy na baya ko tungod sa kadugayon. Gikan pa tung 2000 hangtud karon (It is very difficult. This struggle, seems like I have grown tired because of the length of period. Since 2000 to this date," Datu Manaol said.

Despite these frustrations, Datu Manaol said they will continue their struggle—to campaign against mining in their area.

PUJADA BAY AND CAPE SAN AGUSTIN
Below the mining contract area of AMCOR lies Pujada Bay, a protected seascape and landscape by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 431, and Cape San Agustin.

White sandy beach
White sandy beach
Location: Pujada Bay
Photo by Jojie Jasmin Cabasan
Sunrise
Sunrise
Location: Pujada Bay
Photo by Ellen Red


Pujada Bay, located in Mati City; and Cape San Agustin, which straddles in Mati City and the town of Governor Generoso; all in the province of Davao Oriental are drainages of the streams from Mt. Hamiguitan Range.

Aside from being the drainages of the streams from Mt. Hamiguitan Range, Pujada Bay and Cape San Agustin have an astonishing seascape.

Cape San Agustin seascape
Cape San Agustin seascape
Location: Cape San Agustin
Photo by Ellen Red
Cape San Agustin seascape
Cape San Agustin seascape
Location: Cape San Agustin
Photo by Ellen Red
Cape San Agustin Lighthouse
Cape San Agustin Lighthouse
Location: Cape San Agustin
Photo by Jojie Jasmin Cabasan


The areas around Pujada Bay and Cape San Agustin are also the source of livelihood of the indigenous people, the Manobo, Mandaya, Ata; and the settlers. Women and children picking sea urchins, seaweeds, and sea shells; men in rowboats and spear fishing can be seen along the shoreline and sea of Pujada Bay and Cape San Agustin.

Boy picking sea urchin
Boy picking sea urchin
Location: Cape San Agustin
Photo by Ellen Red
Fisherman spear fishing
Fisherman spear fishing
Location: Cape San Agustin
Photo by Ellen Red


In the village of Langka, Teresa Maunas, a local belonging to Manobo–Mandaya tribe, said in an interview that their place was known as Kot-kot, local language for dig. This as she said, one would just dig a shallow hole and drinking water would just flow out. Ms. Maunas added that one can walk on the shoreline of Cape San Agustin, pick sea urchins, seaweeds, sea shells and the family's next meal is assured.


Thousands of flying fox
Location: Cape San Agustin
Photo by Jojie Jasmin Cabasan


Whale
Location: Cape San Agustin
Photo by Gliceto Dagondon


Dead sea cow,
accidentally caught by net
Location: Cape San Agustin
Photo by Brian Darwin Lawas

Pujada Bay and Cape San Agustin is also home to thousands of flying fox, locally known as kabog; whales, locally known as buhotan; dolphins, locally known as lumod; and sea cow, locally known as duyong.

Locals said that thousands of flying fox sleep by day at Luban Island, an island in the village of Luban. At night, a number of flying fox fly to the forest located at mainland Luban; while others fly to Mt. Hamiguitan Range for food.

Local fishermen reported that they do not catch whales and dolphins as the presence of these endangered mammals help fishermen find fish. Presence of whales and dolphins, they said, signals that fish for commercial consumption abound nearby.

Glenn Virtudazo, a fisherman who catches fish around Cape San Agustin, said in an interview, "(Nakakita ako ug duha ka duyong) niadtong miaging bulan—tung linaw pa kaayo (ang dagat). Usahay maalaan (ang duyong) ug kahoy nga naglutaw (I saw two sea cows just last month—when the sea was calm. Sometimes sea cow can be mistaken as floating wood)."

From December 2005 to September 2006, local monitors, mostly fishermen, reported 37 sightings of sea cows in the villages of Macambol, Cabuaya, and Luban.

The organization in the village of Macambol called Nagkahiusang Katawhan sa Macambol Alang sa Kinaiyahan ug Kalambuan urged government authorities to retract AMCOR's mining permit.

Nagkahiusang Katawhan sa Macambol Alang sa Kinaiyahan ug Kalambuan said in a statement, "Nagatoo kami sa balaod sa kinaiyahan nga nagtakda nga ang tanang butang sa kalibutan magkalambigitay. Ang kadaut nga mahitabo sa kalasangan makadaut usab sa kadagatan (We believe in the laws of nature which direct that all things in this world are connected. The destruction of the forest also destroys the sea).

"Ang pagmina dili maghatag ug malahutayong paglambo tungod kay gubaon gayod niini ang tibuok kabuhatan gikan sa kalasangan hangtod sa kadagatan nga maoy tinubdan sa kinabuhi (Mining cannot give sustainable development because surely the whole creation from the forest to the sea which are the source of life would be destroyed)."

END

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