Nestled in the southern part of the Palawan Man and Biosphere Reserve is the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL), a protected area by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 1815 signed on June 23, 2009. It covers a total area of 120,457 hectares within the territorial jurisdiction of the municipalities of Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, Quezon, Rizal, and Sofronio Espanola. The peak of Mt. Mantalingahan towering at 2085 meters above sea level is the highest peak in the province and considered sacred by the indigenous Palawan people.
As a key biodiversity area, MMPL hosts denizens of plants and animals. It is one of only ten sites of the Alliance for Zero Extinction in the Philippines and one of the 11 important bird areas in Palawan. Most of the threatened and restricted-range birds of the Palawan Endemic Bird Area occur in the Mantalingahan range and the adjacent lowlands. With the recent discoveries of several potentially new species of plants and animals, Mt. Mantalingahan represents a significant contribution to the known pool of Philippine and global biodiversity.
Mt. Mantalingahan has exceptionally high floral and faunal diversity and endemism with several noteworthy species recorded during the rapid biological assessment conducted in 2007.
Undoubtedly, there are more globally unique species waiting to be discovered in the area.
There are 10 vegetative cover-types within the MMPL: old growth, mossy, karst/limestone, residual, mangrove, brushland, grassland, coconut plantation, cropland, other plantation. Forests cover about 100,000 hectares, approximately 79% of the total land area, three-quarters of which is primary forest playing a macro-climatic function by acting as a significant carbon sink. The integrity of this forest cover as part of Palawan’s last bastion of solid forest is being managed as refuge for several threatened species including the critically endangered Cacatua haematuropygia and the several endangered endemic species such as Megophrys ligayae.
Criterion (ix): outstanding example representing significant ongoing ecological and biological processes.
Criterion (x): contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
The size of MMPL (120,457 hectares) is adequate to ensure the integrity of the ecological processes in this largely forested mountain range which is critical for maintaining biodiversity and providing various ecosystem services that benefits the local communities. These ecosystems services include water, soil conservation, flood control, carbon sequestration, non-timber forest products and the high potential of waterfalls, caves and other potential areas for tourism. The thirty-three watersheds within MMPL are extremely valuable to the lowland agricultural economy in the area.
MMPL is the ancestral home of more than 12,000 indigenous Palawans. The livelihood of indigenous peoples residing in MMPL is directly linked to the ecological health of the landscape. The conservation of ecological resources, such as medicinal plants or resin, allows for the continuation of specific cultural practices. The designation of the MMPL as a protected area also protects burial grounds, and ceremonial and other traditional sites that might otherwise be destroyed by resource extractive activities or development.
MMPL’s montane mossy rainforest with an estimated area of 70,000 hectares and the adjoining lowland forest provide various niches to support many different organisms. Its high concentration of restricted-range species makes Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape distinct from Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. For the mammalian fauna alone, two restricted-range rodent species has been recorded on this site namely, Palawanomys furvus (Palawan soft-furred mountain rat) and Sundasciurus rabori (Palawan montane squirrel). Further, a single restricted-range amphibian, Ingerana mariae (Mary’s frog) and 17 restricted range birds had been recorded from this site.
The size of MMPL is five times larger than the area of Mt. Hamiguitan Wildlife Sanctuary. Its size is adequate to provide habitat requirements for various species and ensure ecosystem processes and functions. Being the largest contiguous forest in Palawan Biosphere Reserve, it is definitely a representative ecosystem of the Reserve which has been described by Madulid (as cited in PTFPP, 1998) as among the geographical landmarks with the highest floral species diversity per unit area compared to other parts of the country. The consolidation of floral records suggests that MMPL is a unique and important genebank for a high number of vascular plant species not only in the Philippines but throughout the Malesian region (Co & Sopsop, 2007).