Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Polillo’s Amazing Biodiversity

Polillo, Quezon… The Polillo Group of Islands, also known as the Pollillo Archipelago, is probably unknown to many because of its isolation from the mainland of Luzon. Facing the Pacific Ocean, 25 kilometers east of Luzon, the archipelago is usually only heard of during news updates of weather disturbances. This group of islands is comprised of 27 islands and islets belonging to five municipalities: Polillo, Burdeos and Panukulan, which occupy the mainland, and the two island municipalities of Patnanungan and Jomalig . The island got its name from the Chinese “Pu-li-lu”, which means “an island with plenty of food.” It is an apt name because aside from the abundance of seafood, the islands also boast of amazing terrestrial resources some of which can be found nowhere else in the Philippines, much less the whole world. This richness has drawn a lot of interest in the scientific community, and numerous scientific studies have been conducted in this part of the country since early last century.

About a three-hour boat ride from the municipality of Real in Quezon, the Polillo towns are typically rural, with no permanent and regular public utility buses and jeepneys plying the routes from one municipality to the other. The most common mode of transportation is by boat and many residents have to settle for motorcycles and tricycles as inland transportation,there are few four wheel vehicles. Only few of the settlers here own vehicles, although a lot of houses especially at town centers have already been renovated into big bungalows.
The environment here is quite peaceful and simple with not much opportunities for nightlife. Simple as it may the lifestyle may be, the Polillos have much more to offer, which many of its residents are even unaware of, and these are the rich biological resources found in this part of the country.

The Polillo Archipelago has been identified as one of the priority areas for biodiversity conservation because it is home to at least seven endemic species and sub-species of fauna and numerous other biologically important species. But like the islands of Negros, Panay, Cebu and Mindoro, the Polillos’ forests that are important habitats to these valuable species, making it one of the biodiversity hotspots of the country today. The history of the exploitation of natural resources in this island is actually not an isolated case because similar things have occurred and are still happening in most parts of the Philippines.

Professor Juan Carlos Gonzalez, a noted biologist of the University of the Philippines who had conducted extensive studies in the Polillos, claimed that there are in fact 10 species and sub-species bearing Polillo as part of their common names. These species are Polillo Tarictic Hornbill (Penelopides manillae subnigra), Polillo Flameback (Chrysocolaptes lucidus), Polillo White-browed Shama (Copsychus luzonniensis parvimaculatos), Polillo Blue-naped Parrot (Tanygnathus lucionensis hydridus), Polillo Blue-backed Parrot (Tanygnathus sumatranus freeri), Polillo Crested Lizard (Bronchocoela marmoratus sanchezi), Polillo Forest Frog (Platymantis polilloensis) and Polillo Green-scaled Geck (Pseudogekko smaragdinus).
The conservation significance of the Polillos has prompted the Fauna and Flora International (FFI), a UK-based organization, to adopt this island for one of its major biodiversity programs in the Philippines. Since FFI works through a network of local organizations and no conservation organization was operating in the Polillos, it facilitated the formation of the Polillo Islands Biodiversity Conservation Foundation (PIBCF), which is now implementing a project to conserve important habitats and species of the area.

This project is trying to pilot the concept of Local Conservation Area as an alternative to the traditional protected areas concept of the Philippines. Since many biologically important areas in the Polillos are relatively small and already fragmented, the project is invoking the Local Government Code of the Philippines to allow these areas to be managed by local governments in partnership with local communities, a concept that is now gaining support from local stakeholders. With the continued diminishing of the Philippines’ biodiversity, there is now a growing recognition from the conservation community that environment and natural resources management of the country should be decentralized further.(samutsaringbuhay.wordpress.com)


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