Two new Ramsar sites in the Philippines
The Republic of the Philippines has designated the 1008th and 1009th Wetlands of International Importance to the Ramsar List, effective 12 November 1999. A third site has been put forward as well and is only pending submission of adequates maps before being appended to the Ramsar List.
Naujan Lake National Park in Oriental Mindoro (14,568 ha) is the fifth largest lake in the Philippines (14km by 7km); it is volcanic in origin and receives water from local run-off with no major effluents. There are large areas of shallow water with an abundant growth of aquatic vegetation. It qualifies for the List under old Criteria 1a on representativeness, 2b on special value for diversity, and 3b on substantial numbers of waterfowl. The lake has 14 species of fish, 5 of them migratory, and is an important feeding or wintering area for large numbers of ducks and other waterbirds such as herons, egrets, rails, and bitterns. The rare Plain swamphen (Amaurornis olivaceous) is also found, as well as an endemic species of freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis). Naujan Lake enjoys a humid tropical climate with evenly distributed annual rainfall. Most of the people in the area depend upon the lake for their livelihood, particularly through fishing; the population is composed of the Mangyans, indigenous people of Mindoro including the Tadyawan tribe in the area of the lake, and the "damuong" or non-Mangyans. Fishing is the principle occupation and source of income, but the lake also provides water for drinking, laundry, bathing,and irrigation; moreover, the lake possesses great beauty and has potential for tourism.
The Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (14,836 ha) includes a vast complex of freshwater marshes and watercourses with numerous shallow lakes and ponds in the upper basin of the Agusan River and its tributaries, which rise in the hills of eastern Mindanao. Some parts of the marsh have been converted into fish ponds and rice paddies. Agusan Marsh qualifies for the List under old Criteria 1c on substantial hydrological role in a river basin and 2b on maintaining genetic and ecological diversity. The site acts as storage for rain water and reduces the immediate downstream flow of flood water into Butuan City and other population centers. The Marsh supports the largest expanses left in the Philippines of seven habitat types and includes a very large area of swamp forest and a peat swamp forest not found anywhere else in the country. High silt loads caused by deforestation and other activities in the catchment are a continuing problem. The indigenous people living in the area are 60% Manobos and 40% others, including Cebuanos and Ilongos. The Marsh is sparsely populated because of seasonal flooding, and the population are 1) permanent residents of the Marsh who live in floating houses, 2) people who live within the Marsh in the dry seasons and move to the peripheries during the flood season, and 3) people who live permanently on the peripheries and move into the marsh on a daily basis. Trapping of crocodiles for sale on commercial farms is an important activity.
And, two days later . . . .
Headline story. The Philippines designates superb coral reef site. The Government of the Philippines has designated its fourth Ramsar site (the Convention's 1010th), the Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park (33,200 hectares), located in the middle of the Central Sulu Sea about 150 kilometres southeast of Puerto Princesa City. The Tubbataha reefs are well-known amongst fishermen in the southern Philippines and scuba divers around the world. Tubbataha means a long reef exposed at low tide, and this is considered the largest coral reef atoll in the Philippines, harboring a diversity of marine life equal to or greater than any such area in the world. Some 46 coral genera and more than 300 coral species have been recorded, as well as at least 40 families and 379 species of fish. Sea turtles, sharks, tuna, dolphins, and jackfish are also found in the reefs. No permanent residents are found within the Park, but indigenous inhabitants of Cagayancillo periodically visit the reefs to collect the eggs of nesting birds such as boobies, and scuba diving, snorkeling, and sport fishing are popular activities despite the relative inaccessibility of the area. There has been considerable damage in recent years because of rampant use of destructive fishing using dynamite and cyanide. The Park was included in UNESCOs World Heritage list in 1993. (9/12/99)