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$1M conservation fund established for Palawan area

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A “sustainable conservation trust fund” with initial funding of $1 million was established for the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape in Palawan, the first such fund in the Philippines, environmental group Conservation International (CI) Philippines announced last Friday.

Established by Conservation International’s (CI) Global Conservation Fund (GCF), the fund ensures conservation efforts can continue across the 120,000-hectare landscape, Palawan’s largest terrestrial protected area, the group said.

CI Philippines Executive Director Enrique Nunez said in a statement, “This innovative fund will provide sustainable financing for the long term maintenance, protection, and enrichment of the biodiversity within the protected area. Essentially, investing in this fund supports livelihood diversification for the indigenous Palawan people, improving their well-being, and ensures the watershed can continue to provide freshwater to all residents of southern Palawan.”

With over half its original forest cover remaining, Mt. Mantalingahan–the highest peak in Palawan–holds vital habitat for over 1,000 species, 23 of which are identified as globally threatened including the Palawan pangolin (Manis culionensis), Palawan flying fox (Acerodon leucotis), the Philippine cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), the Palawan peacock pheasant (Polyplectron napoleonis), and the Palawan hornbill (Anthracoceros marchei). |

New species are still being discovered upon its slopes, highlighting the landscape’s outstanding global value and the importance of maintaining this protected area in the face of constant timber-cutting and mining pressures, CI explained.

“This is yet another great step for the MMPL which is already recognized as a highly successful model of conservation. In 2013 it won the first national Best Protected Area–Showcasing Partnership with Civil Society Award, and it is our hope that in time its nomination to become a World Heritage Site will be successful giving it the international recognition it deserves,” Nunez added.

CI Philippines first moved to establish the protected area in southern Palawan began in 2004 with financial support from the GCF. It was formally designated by virtue of a proclamation by then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in June 2009, increasing the area of Palawan under formal protection by 20 percent. Since then, management and business plans for the landscape have been completed leading to the establishment of the trust fund, the group said.

CI Philippines disbursed the grant of $1 million to the Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation, the endowment manager, as initial capital for the endowment on October 7. The capitalization target is at least $2.7 million, so further investment is needed, CI added.

“The trust fund is the first step. Now the challenge to secure a better future for Mantalingahan and the people that depend on it rests on garnering further contributions to increase the endowment capital so that we can ensure this effort endures into the future.” Nunez said.

Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, Director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said, “We welcome the creation of an endowment fund for Mt. Mantalingahan. 60 percent of the budget for managing our protected areas comes from the national government, which is certainly very limited. Additional funding from other sources can go a long way in protecting the last remaining biodiversity-rich areas in the country.”