Photo via Department of Tourism
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said working on MMVNP for a UNESCO nomination had been a three-year labor of love for the province, for both culture and arts as heritage on one hand and as an environment biosphere reserve on the other.
Salceda said this included “technical engagements with the Philippine National Commission for UNESCO whose head, Dr. Virginia MIralao was my sociology-anthropology teacher in Ateneo and also one of my ideological mentors in college.”
The governor nominated MVNP in 2014, along with other protected areas of the province as part of the Albay Biosphere Reserve in the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program. “It is a commitment to protect Albay’s natural habitats, as seen in its increased forest cover of 88% from 26, 298 hectares in 2003 to 44, 891 hectares by 2010. A UNESCO recognition entitles the area for more protection,” he said.
Salceda said many looked forward to seeing MMVNP — unrivaled in beauty and aesthetic importance — listed as a world heritage site, which is expected to further boost the province’s environmental campaign and tourism industry.
Albay is now considered among the fastest growing tourism areas in the country, with Mayon Volcano as its banner attraction, coupled with the Cagsawa Ruins Park.
To be included in the tentative list is the initial step towards becoming a world heritage site, after going through a stringent authenticity and integrity review process.
Mt. Mayon is one of the Philippines’ most featured land forms. Authors and travelers have published countless articles about the volcano, and artists and photographers had made it their subject in both its serene and fiery stages. Selfie buffs from everywhere have taken thousands of photographs of its remarkably symmetrical contours and shape daily both on sunny and rainy conditions.
In its seasons of calm, the volcano has been the object of adventure and quests for mountaineers, braving the dangers of its ever shifting sandy slopes to conquer its peak.
As a world heritage site, Salceda said MMVNP would have the support of UNESCO and the global community in its protection and promotion, and more people could come to see and appreciate for themselves its ecological role, exceptional natural grandeur and cultural significance.
Mayon Volcano towers at 2,462 meters above sea level and is popular for its perfectly conical shape whose natural beauty has inspired a number of legends. It is the most active volcano in the Philippines and one of the most active in the world, having erupted over 51 times in the past four centuries, creating a culture of resiliency among its inhabitants.
Mayon is a cradle of culture. Pre-hispanic Bicolanos believed it to be the abode of their ancestors and thus its confines are subject to taboos, including violation of its natural resources and even climbing its peak. It was also held as the ‘Elysian Fields,’ the sacred mountain of the deities Mayong and Gugurang, the supreme god of Bicolano animist beliefs.
UNESCO said the 5,458.65-hectare MMVNP is home to 156 floral species belonging to 36 families and 83 species of trees that include the single dipterocarp found in the area, Hopea philippinensis and a near-threatened specie from the rare family Nepentheceae, the pitcher plant Nepenthes ventricosa.
Its ethnobotanical biodiversity wealth, consisting of 71 woody species belonging to 49 genera and 33 families has been documented. Many are endemic (32%) while others are indigenous. It is also a habitat for 104 species of land vertebrates, including 57 species of birds, 10 species of amphibians, 24 species of reptiles, and 13 species of mammals.
Of the 13 mammal species, seven are endemic, three of which are listed as vulnerable — the Philippine Brown Deer, the Philippine Warty Pig, and the Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox.
UNESCO said the MMVNP also has the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation. —By Johnny C. Nunez (PNA)