The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has designated a 4,422.8-hectare forest in Mangatarem town in the province of Pangasinan as part of its national efforts to conserve threatened and endemic wild animals and plants in the country.

Under the DENR Administrative Order recently signed by Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, the forest area will be called as the Mangatarem Critical Habitat. It is located in barangays Cacaoiten, Cabaluyan II, Calomboyan Sur, Lawak Langka, Catarataraan, Pacalat and Malabobo.

"In doing this, we at the DENR can save habitats which are critical for the survival of threatened species or species at risk of extinction, including other associated wildlife, and at the same time provide this land area a legal framework to protect it from destructive uses," Cimatu said.

Mangatarem Critical Habitat is a 4,422.80-hectare forest that serves as home to several threatened and endemic fauna species including Philippine deer (Rusa marianna), Philippine warty pig (Sus philippensis), Philippine duck (Anas luzonica), Flame-breasted fruit dove (Ptilinopus marchei), Philippine eagle owl (Bubo philippensis), Luzon scops owl (Otus longicornis), and Rufous hornbill (Buceros hydrocorax).

Flora species also include the threatened oi-ói (Diospyros philippinensis), kalíngag (Cinnamomum mercadoi), malabayábas (Tristaniopsis decorticata) and several more endemic species found in the forest.

Cimatu explained that the DAO will help the DENR work hand-in-hand with the local government, communities and other stakeholders involved in accomplishing the locally-driven ecosystems management approach.

"We need to sustainably manage this certain area, as this is one of the most important and few remaining forest blocks in Pangasinan. Through this, we can both protect the endemic and threatened flora and fauna living in it, while sustaining the ecosystem services and community livelihood dependent on the forest," Cimatu pointed out.

Under the DAO, the management of the Mangatarem Critical Habitat shall be under the DENR-Region I (Ilocos Region), together with the local government of Mangatarem and stakeholders.

Moreover, they will be responsible for the preparation of the Critical Habitat Management Plan to ensure that existing ecosystems in the critical habitat are preserved.

Dumping of waste products detrimental to wildlife; squatting and/or occupying any portion of the critical habitat; mineral exploration and/or extraction; burning; logging; and quarrying, will be also strictly prohibited in accordance with Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.

Mangatarem Critical Habitat is the ninth to be included in the list of declared critical habitats across the country.

The others are Rafflesia schadenbergiana Critical Habitat, Cabusao Wetland Critical Habitat, Malasi Tree Park and Wildlife Sanctuary Critical Habitat, Carmen Critical Habitat, Adams Wildlife Critical Habitat, Magsaysay Critical Habitat for Hawksbill Turtles, Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat, and Dumaran Critical Habitat. #