HomeGood BalitaApayao and Isnag Heritage Honored as New UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

Apayao and Isnag Heritage Honored as New UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

In photo: Philippine Eagle Nariha Kabugao after her release on April 12, 2024. Photo by Erwin Mascarinas via PEF Facebook.

Apayao, a stronghold of the Isnag people and the majestic Philippine eagle, has been inscribed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

The designation as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve means that areas in Apayao are now protected for biodiversity conservation.

The Biosphere Reserve for the yApayaos covers nearly 400,000 hectares, including 48,254.40 hectares of core areas, 168,720.54 hectares of buffer zones, and 178,999.82 hectares of transition zones. Apayao is home to the Isnag people and 10 other ethnolinguistic groups, with nearly 125,000 residents identifying as yApayaos.

The inscription follows six years of documentation, biodiversity expeditions, biophysical and cultural mapping, training, awareness campaigns, and international collaborations. The journey began in 2015 with the discovery of the first active nest of the critically endangered Philippine eagle in Luzon, followed by more eagle pair sightings, affirming Apayao as a key habitat for this rare bird.

Apayao’s rich biodiversity includes the endemic and endangered Rafflesia manillana, the Northern Bitatawa lizard, and the Lauan tree family. The yApayao traditional way of life, including practices like “Lapat” and “oman” farming, also played a crucial role in the bid for Biosphere Reserve status, the Philippine Eagle Foundation report stated.

The announcement came during the 36th International Coordinating Council Meeting of the Man and Biosphere Program (ICC-MAB) held in Agadir, Morocco, on July 5, 2024.

The recognition is a result of the collaborative efforts of the Provincial Government of Apayao, the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and other partners.

The Philippine delegation at the ICC-MAB session was led by Apayao Governor Elias Bulut Jr, along with Apayao’s Lone District Representative Eleonor Bulut-Begtang, PEF Executive Director Dennis Salvador, PEF Director for Operations Dr. Jayson Ibanez, DENR Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) Regional Executive Director Engr Paquito Morales, and UNESCO Philippines Secretary General Dr. Ivan Henares.

This…marks another milestone not only for our beloved province but also for our country, the Philippines,” said Apayao Governor Bulut in his acceptance speech. “We hope to inspire other learning spaces for conservation and sustainable development in the Philippines and around the world…and together we strive with our shared mission and responsibility to save what is left of our natural resources…and globally endangered species like the majestic Philippine eagle from extinction.”

Apayao now joins Albay, Palawan, and Puerto Galera as the fourth UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Philippines. Its network of collaborators includes the US Forest Service, San Roque Power Corporation, and the Forest Foundation Philippines.

UNESCO recently added 10 of the Philippines’ natural and cultural sites to its World Heritage Tentative List.

Join us in celebrating this incredible achievement and share this news to inspire others in the fight for conservation and sustainable development!

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The Good News Pilipinas Team
The Good News Pilipinas Team
The Good News Pilipinas Team is a group of Filipino journalists who advocate putting more good news stories about the Philippines and Filipinos on the media.

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