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There are not enough superlatives to describe the beauty of Batanes, the country’s northernmost and smallest province. Despite its remoteness and reputation of being ridden by strong typhoons, anyone who has been to the place would undeniably describe it as a nature paradise. It has lots of natural attractions guaranteed to satisfy the most sophisticated nature lovers.


Batanes view1-webBatanes, an exceptional group of islands where the West Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet, has been gifted with rich and unique array of biological diversity. It is for this reason why the entire province was designated as a protected landscape and seascape.

Beyond its natural wonders, the Batanes island group also offers some of the most friendly, laid-back people and an indigenous Ivatan culture that is welcoming to visitors.

Thus, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has made conservation and sustainable management of the province’s affluent natural and cultural heritage its primary concern.

George Reyes, the provincial environment and natural resources officer (PENRO) and protected area superintendent (PASU) of the Batanes Protected Landscape and Seascape (BPLS), said the province was envisioned to be “a model protected area with high biodiversity, abundant resources, well preserved landscapes, seascapes, and architectural and cultural values.”

He said measures have been put in place by the DENR, local government and other stakeholders to protect the islands against degradation or exploitation.

Batanes-church-webSince the entire province is recognized as a protected area, Reyes said that all land and water development activities in Batanes go through an approval process administered by the DENR and BPLS.

“It is our duty at the DENR and BPLS to protect and restore habitats, promote rational use of resources, preserve our picturesque landscapes and seascapes and cultural heritage including unique architectural, religious and historical sites,” Reyes said.


Batanes, about 660 kilometers from Manila, is composed of a cluster of 10 isolated islands, covering a total of 23,347 hectares. The three largest islands are Batan – where the provincial capital of Basco is situated – Itbayat and Sabtang.

Despite its isolation and limited land area, Batanes is home to vibrant and distinct cultures and heritage as well as to rich ecosystems, biodiversity and dazzling landscapes.

Batanes stonehouse-webAmong other things, Batanes is famous for the old stone houses of the Ivatans. These ethnic houses, locally known as Rakuhs, are built with limestone or corals as walls, reeds, and cogon grass for their roofs.

However, Reyes said the architectural landscape of the province is constantly changing as a result of climate change and outside influence. He said a number of Ivatans now prefer to live in modern but weaker houses than traditional houses, which could withstand earthquakes and strong typhoons that used to frequent the Batanes islands.

“The cultural character of Batanes is under threat from outside and foreign influences, as well as climate change,” Reyes said.

Reyes said local residents have become complacent after strong tropical cyclones became less frequent during the last decade.

Batanes brings together the best of many worlds with its diverse ecology of grasslands, cliff vegetation, beach forest, rainforest, sea grass beds and coral reefs. This diversity accounts for the abundance and variety of fauna and flora found on its islands.

Batanes ravine-webThere are at least 251 species of flora in Batanes, 42 of which are endemic to the country and seven are found only in the BPLS. The seven are kanarem (Diospyros sabtanensis), riwas (Drypetes falcata), vua (Areca catechu var. batanensis), voyavoy (Phoenix hanceana var. philipinensis), gagadang (Hydrangea subintegra), tangaw (Boehmeria villosa), and vuhuan (Leucosyke quadrinervia). Of these plant species, 92 are known to be economically useful to the Ivatans.

Both voyavoy and vayasuvas are endemic species with much localized distribution, which are heavily exploited by local people.

There are eight species of plants of critically global conservation status found in BPLS. These include voyavoy (endangered), Arius (endangered), kamaya (endangered), narra (vulnerable), and Myristica philippinensis (vulnerable). Other locally endangered species are vayasuvas, vatinglaw, vonitan (Lilium formosanum), waling-waling (Vanda lamellata), and valit (Calamus siphonaspathus).

Batanes cave-webThe beach forest of Batanes consists of a narrow and sparse strip of plants composed dominantly of coconut (Cocos nucifera), vuton (Barringtonia asiatica), hateng (Dendrocnide meyeniana), savidug (Terminalia catappa) and vadino (Ipomoea pes-caprae). The beach forest habitat is found only on Sabtang Island.

Meanwhile, the average of coral cover of Batanes ranged from seven percent to 60 percent, which is within the poor to good category. The diversity and abundance of reef fishes particularly the commercially important ones like surgeon fish, parrot fish, grouper, emperors and goat fish, are relatively high in most of the sites evaluated.

According to Reyes, the priority sites for conservation of flora species have been determined based on species diversity; presence of useful, endemic, rare and endangered plants; presence of threat; uniqueness of habitat and degree of integrity of forest.

The sites identified include the forest of Chadpidan; the Matarem Ivana; Mahatao (limestone forest) and Itbayat forests; the grasslands of Sabtang; the summit grassland of Mt. Iraya; and the littoral cliff vegetation of Chadpidan and Basco-Mahatao.

Because of its limited area and remote location, the province of Batanes harbors a moderately rich terrestrial fauna.

Surveys conducted on the islands in 2006 and 2007 by the University of the Philippines-Los Baños recorded several possible animal species. Five reptiles, 10 birds and two mammals recorded are regionally restricted, echoing the significance of Batanes as a high priority for biodiversity conservation.

Batanes beach boat-webThe UP Los Baños study showed that seven threatened and near-threatened species are known from Batanes, including Platalea minor, Egretta eulophotes, Treron formosae, Otus elegans, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, Pteropus dasymallus and Trimeresurus mcgregori.

To protect the wildlife and preserve endangered species found on the islands, the DENR has taken firm measures such imposing regulation that prohibits hunting, destroying, disturbing or removing from the BPLS any wild plants or animal products without permit from the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).

The DENR also bans any mineral exploration or extraction within forestlands; commercial fishing within municipal waters; fishing with the use of explosives, noxious substances, electricity or drift nets with mesh below three centimeters between the knots when stretched.


Also prohibited are quarry operations for aggregates, limestone, coral, sand or other quarry material; and cutting, removal, gathering and taking of timber or forest products from forestlands without a permit from PAMB or other permits required under existing laws. # 

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The Philippine Eagle, our national bird, is the largest eagle in the world. This magnificent bird proudly stands at one ( 1 ) meter in height and has a wingspan of about two (2) meters. Its head is adorned with pointed crown feathers known as "crest" and it has a massive arched beak.

Our national bird has been given mighty names in the various regions such as "Haring lbon", " Agila", "Mamboogook", "Garuda", "Banog", "Asinmanonoy", and "Biok".

5a-Milia-webThe female Philippine eagle is sexually mature at age five (5), the males at seven (7).
The female lays only one (1) egg every two (2) years. Nests, measuring 1-2 meters wide, are built on large trees usually found along steep slopes and ravines. Both parents take turns incubating the egg for about 60 days. At 22 months, the young eagle leaves its parents' home and searches for its own territory.

The Philippine eagle is endemic to the Philippines and is known to inhabit the forested areas of the Sierra Madre and the Cordillera Mountain Ranges of Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao.

This critically endangered bird with a current population estimate of about 500 pairs (Ibanez,et al.,2006) throughout the archipelago faces the risk of extinction due primarily to loss of habitat. If this persists, the young eagle would have no territories of its own to perpetuate its kind. Hunting of the species has also contributed to their declining population. 

 

Why do we need to conserve them?

15 PhilippineEagle AlainPascua C90P1131-webThe Philippine eagle is a national symbol for the rich Filipino heritage. Soaring high amidst all adversities, it epitomizes the Filipinos' tenacity and resiliency in overcoming all odds to achieve their goals and aspirations.

The Philippine eagle and other raptors regulate the population of smaller animals that can pose danger to humans (i.e. snakes) or cause damage to agricultural crops (i.e. rats). Their presence in forests is an ecological indicator of a rich and biodiverse environment.

Philippine eagle habitats can be utilized as ecotourism destinations when managed sustainably. The can be a great venue for bird watchers, hikers, and tourists to marvel at the beauty of this magnificent bird and other wildlife, while also providing livelihood for the local communities.

 

 

What can you do to help our Eagles?airbreak-PE-web

  • Report to the nearest DENR Office the following:

• any sightings in the wild including those that have been captured or injured;
• any illegal activity such as hunting, killing, and trapping of eagles.

  • Make it your personal advocacy: Tell others about the importance of conserving wildlife.
  • Support the rehabilitation of forest habitats by planting more trees.
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle your garbage to lessen the demand for forest-derived products.

 

 

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