PALAWAN province – The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a UNESCO Heritage Site since 1993, has been declared an ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Heritage Park.
The declaration by the 10 ASEAN Member States (AMS) follows their recognition of the importance of their cooperation in conserving the Park due to its unique biodiversity, ecosystems, and wilderness, as well as its outstanding values.
The Park, a popular diving destination, is the Philippines’ seventh AHP and its first marine protected area to become an AHP. With 10,000 hectares of coral reefs and at least 86,000 hectares of surrounding waters right at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the center of global marine biodiversity, the Park is home to at least half of the world’s coral species and to almost 80 percent of the Philippines’ coral species.
The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), secretariat of the AHP Programme, formally handed the certificate of the declaration to the representatives of the Park’s management office in a ceremony in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
The AHP Programme and ACB
Through the ASEAN Declaration on Heritage Parks and Reserves in 1984, the AMS agreed to effectively manage AHPs in order to maintain ecological processes and life support systems, preserve genetic diversity, ensure sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems, and maintain wilderness areas that have scenic, cultural, educational, research, recreational, and tourism values. Since the establishment of the first 11 AHPs in 1984, a total of 37 protected areas or conservation areas have already been declared AHPs (as of March 2016), covering around 8 million hectares of different ecosystems spread throughout the 10 AMS.
To ensure effective facilitation and coordination of the AHP Programme, ACB was designated as its secretariat in 2005. ACB assists the AMS in the implementation of the AHP Programme by carrying out capacity development activities for key stakeholders of AHPs, extending technical assistance to enhance management systems in AHPs, encouraging stakeholder participation in planning and decision-making for AHPs, organizing AHP biodiversity data, sharing up-to-date information on good practices, and implementing conservation and collaborative management measures for the benefit of the AHPs and the AMS.
The German Government, through the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and its development organizations, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and KfW Entwicklungsbank, support ACB and the AHP Programme through their joint implementation of the programme “Protection of Biological Diversity in the ASEAN Member States in Cooperation with the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity” (CARE4BioDiv).
CARE4BioDiv is aimed at the “protection of biological diversity and sustainable management of natural ecosystems in the ASEAN region to contribute to the improvement of livelihoods of the local population.” It is being implemented through three projects/modules: Institutional Strengthening of the Biodiversity Sector in the ASEAN (ISB), Biodiversity-based Products as an Economic Source for the Improvement of Livelihoods and Biodiversity Protection (BBP), and Small Grants Programme by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity.