Palawan governor wants 60,000 hectares of dipterocarp forests declared as protected area

governorPUERTO PRINCESA CITY — Many times accused as causing the degradation of Palawan’s forest cover for owning what once was a thriving commercial logging company in the town of San Vicente, Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez is now asking the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to declare 60,000 hectares of land as protected dipterocarp forest areas.

Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) Executive Director Nelson Devanadera told the local press Tuesday in a kapihan at the Provincial Environment and Natural

Resources Office (PENRO) in this city that Alvarez already sent a letter to DENR Secretary Ramon Paje requesting to allow the conduct of “stock taking activities” in 60,000 hectares of land in northern Palawan for eventual declaration as a “protected dipterocarp forest area.”

Devanadera said the expanse of land being proposed is contiguous and across the municipalities of Roxas, San Vicente, Taytay, and Dumaran in northern Palawan.

He said Alvarez sent the letter to Paje in May, and is just waiting for the decision of the DENR chief to continue with the ground works of the proposal, and assessment that the PCSDS will lead.

Devanadera said the proposal came from Alvarez himself after observing personally that slash-and-burn farming are still being conducted in some vital forest areas in northern Palawan, and across the said municipalities.

“If the DENR allows this area to be declared as protected dipterocarp forest area, the governor believes laws against slash-and-burn farming in vital covers will have more fangs to stop unscrupulous residents from degrading them,” he said.

Dipterocarps are “medium to large resinous forest trees belonging to the tropical plant family Dipterocarpeae.” Said to comprise “the main timber trees of tropical Asia,” dipterocarp trees are important as they are the major component of various types of lowland rainforests.

In the Philippines, including Palawan, there are about “45 species in six genera that have been recorded, and 46% are endemic to the archipelago,” according to Habitats of Philippine Dipterocarps study conducted by Edwino Fernando.

One such specie that can be found in Palawan is the Dipterocarpus gracilis, “an important source of timber for medium and heavy construction,” and whose wood oil is extracted and used as a varnish and for illumination.

Another is apitong, or Dipterocarpus grandiflorus, that has been declared critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2006.

Devanadera said the governor is hoping the DENR would recognize the importance of the request, and the value of sustainably protecting the dipterocarp forests in Palawan.

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