Mount Hamiguitan in Davao Oriental, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is receiving its needed forest protection boost as its communities have engaged in beekeeping of native “kiyot,” generating sustainable income while protecting the environment.
With a more dependable livelihood and income, residents of the buffer zone of Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary (MHRWS) are becoming strong forest guards who help conserve forests and biodiversity of the protected site.
The beekeeping livelihood program is a special project called Beekeeping as Bio-diversity-Friendly Community-Based Enterprise in MHWRS and Expansion Areas of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to involve the community in forest conservation.
Mt. Hamiguitan is a wildlife sanctuary recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to have “universal value.” It is home to globally threatened flora and fauna, eight of which are found only on the mountain itself.
It is the sixth area in the Philippines to be accorded recognition as a World Heritage Site.
“Raising native bees will not only generate an alternative source of livelihood, but it is also considered significant in improving the diversity and productivity of the surrounding vegetation of Mt. Hamiguitan through an improved pollination process offered by the bees,” said Clint Michael Cleofe, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office management specialist.
Fortunately, the native bee variety in San Isidro town, the kiyot, is known to be stingless, making it easier to harvest its honey.
The beekeeping livelihood program is supported by the local government of San Isidro. The University of Southeastern Philippines (USEP) Tagum campus also has a development plan for the beekeeping livelihood program.
DENR’s assistance to the beekeeping livelihood project includes a Capacity Development Plan or training of people’s organizations (POs) on beekeeping and business management.
Beekeeping materials and equipment and start-up kits are provided to the people’s groups. Assistance in product development and product marketing areas also extended to them.
As there is high demand for bees’ products—honey and propolis—the project is expected to generate satisfactory income for the community.
There is a separate memorandum of agreement between DENR and the local government of the Governor Generoso municipality (also host community of MHRWS) for another livelihood program—sustainable almaciga resin.
The Lumad Almaciga Tappers of Governor Generoso (LATAGG) will benefit from the project. Monthly household income generated from almaciga resin production is P6,000 to P8,000. At the same time, LATAGG members become volunteer forest patrollers in Mt. Hamiguitan.
While generally pronounced to have a “good” state of protection, Mt. Hamiguitan is being strictly protected, as it faces threats of conversion of land for agriculture. There are also mining threats outside the site.
Potential risks from climate change and increasing tourism are now being addressed by DENR.
Mt. Hamiguitan is known for its highly diverse mountain ecosystem that makes it home to a number of endemic species known only in Mindanao, and particularly found only in Mt. Hamiguitan.
“The combination of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems within the boundaries of the property and the large number of species inhabiting each makes the MHRWS home to a total of 1,380 species with 341 Philippine endemics,” according to UNESCO.
That includes the critically endangered and iconic Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) and the endangered Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), the trees Shorea polysperma, Shorea astylosa and the orchid Paphiopedilum adductum.
“Its high level of endemicity is well exemplified by the proportion of its amphibian (75% endemic) and reptile (84% endemic) species. The fragile tropical ‘bonsai’ forest that crowns the MHRWS epitomizes nature’s bid to survive in adverse conditions,” UNESCO said.
Scientists believe there may be more undiscovered unique flora and fauna in the mountain range.
“In the lower elevations the agro-ecosystem and remnants of dipterocarp forests house some 246 plant species including significant numbers of endemic species such as the globally threatened dipterocarps of the genus Shorea,” UNESCO said.
“The dipterocarp forest ecosystem is characterized by the presence of large trees and is home to 418 plant and 146 animal species, which include threatened species such as the Mindanao Bleeding-heart dove (Gallicolumba crinigera) and Philippine warty pig (Sus philippensis),” it added.