The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has approved the reclassification of four caves in Abra, Quezon and Albay for proper management and conservation.
Its Biodiversity Management Bureau, and regional and provincial offices, reclassified from Class I to Class II the Ganway Cave in Barangay Malamsit, Penarrubia town and the Quitinday Cave in Barangay Quitinday, Jovellar town, both in Albay.
Sung Wan Cave in Brgy. Lawigue, Tayabas City, Quezon was also reclassified from Class I to Class II.
On the other hand, the Palale Cave in Barangay Ibaba Palale in Tayabas City was moved from Class II to I.
DENR refers to Class I caves as those with delicate and fragile geological formations, threatened species, and archeological and paleontological values.
Caves under this category may only be used for “mapping, photography, educational, and scientific purposes” due to their natural values and hazardous conditions. These are closed for ecotourism activities.
Class II caves contain areas or portions with hazardous conditions and sensitive geological, archeological, cultural, historical, and biological values or high-quality ecosystems. Caves under Class II can be used for guided educational tours and visits led by experienced cavers.
The agency’s officer in charge Ernesto Adobo Jr. said the classification of the caves is pursuant to the DENR Administrative Order No. 2003-29 or the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9072 or the National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act of 2001 to assess the value of the cave and ascertain its appropriate use.
“Finding the middle ground where the critical importance of caves to the country’s biodiversity and the critical role they have to the nation’s socio-cultural heritage meet demonstrates the distinct mandate of the DENR to secure the sustainability of the country’s rich natural resources and their benefits to our people,” Adobo said.
With nature-based ecotourism as a critical sector to the country’s tourism industry, he said the COVID-19 pandemic “has highlighted the crucial role the DENR plays ” in setting the standards on the development of country’s natural resources, like water bodies and caves, according to their beneficial uses.
“These initiatives set a road to more resilient and regenerative nature-based tourism practices that illustrate their natural resilience and, as a result, enable the public to enjoy these natural assets in perpetuity,” he added.
Before their reclassification, the caves have been assessed for safety and supply of oxygen, high endemism and presence of threats and hazards, safety of its areas as potential ecotourism sites, and absence of hazardous conditions.