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Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park

Philippines
Factors affecting the property in 2014*
  • Illegal activities
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Management systems/ management plan
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2014
Requests approved: 3 (from 1997-2001)
Total amount approved : 53,000 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2014

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN received information from a concerned party regarding a number of threats to the property. On 30 January 2014, the World Heritage Centre requested further information from the State Party on these issues. The State Party subsequently submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property on 1 April 2014, a summary of which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/652/documents. The information received by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN provided information about the following points:

  • In December 2012 the boundaries of the national park were changed, reportedly resulting in the exclusion from the national park of critical habitats for a number of threatened and endemic species;
  • Development of farms and rubber plantations within the property;
  • Inadequate tourism management and an increasing influx of tourists following the declaration of the property as one of the “New 7 Wonders of Nature”, which may exceed the carrying capacity;
  • Land grabbing and illegal resort development;
  • Illegal wildlife trade, including the trade in pets and the trade for consumption, including supplying the market for bush meat and traditional medicine.

In its response to these issues, the State Party notes that:

  • No boundary modification has occurred. On the contrary, the ground demarcation of the boundary as defined by the Presidential Proclamation 212 of 16 November 1999, which is also the reference for the boundaries of the inscribed property, even resulted in a comparative increase of the area;
  • Human activities in the multiple use zone, the controlled use zone, and in areas inhabited by indigenous communities are closely monitored by park authorities. Farming activities are highly regulated, and farm developments and traditional slash-and-burn methods are strictly prohibited;
  • There are no rubber plantations inside the property;
  • Deforestation of at least 1,490 ha has occurred in the property between 2002 and 2007. More recent data are not provided. While the State Party notes that this has occurred in the buffer zone of the property, the maps provided by the State Party suggest that some deforestation has in fact taken place within the property’s boundaries;
  • The dramatic increase of tourist arrivals since the declaration of the property as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature is confirmed. Tourism management was deficient; however the situation has much improved since the new park administration took up office in July 2013. The number of allowable visitors is set at 900, well below the carrying capacity of 1400 as recommended by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARD) and the Forestry and Environment Research Division of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). However, it is much higher than the carrying capacity of 342, recommended as an alternative by PCAARD and DENR. The management plan for the property is being reviewed during 2014;
  • When the new park administration took up office, there were serious issues with land claims and sales in the property. Initial attempts to address the situation through a land titling process resulted in even more land claims, threatening the forests of the property. In response, a new cadastral survey was initiated, and a Survey and Registration of Protected Areas Occupants (SRPAO) is scheduled in April 2014;
  • The new park administration has implemented a number of measures to combat illegal wildlife trade, including increasing the number of rangers from 10 to 21, and round the clock patrols. Since then, no incidents of illegal wildlife trade and hunting were recorded in the property. No information is provided about the scale of illegal wildlife trade and hunting prior to these measures being implemented, nor about any residual impacts.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2014

It is recommended that the Committee welcome the efforts undertaken by the State Party to protect and conserve the property; in particular efforts undertaken to manage tourism and control wildlife trade.

The measures reported by the State Party have been in place only since July 2013, and a number of the possible threats to the property have potential to impact its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). Of particular concern are the issues with land claims and illegal land sales in the property, and the planned SRPAO is welcomed in that regard. In addition, the absence of data on deforestation and the scale of illegal wildlife trade and hunting over the past years makes it difficult to draw conclusions on the current state of conservation of the property. The State Party is developing a new management plan for the property, and this should include regulations for appropriate tourism development, including in the vicinity of the property. The information provided also suggests that areas regarded as buffer zone by the State Party are within the boundaries of the inscribed property. Consequently, there is a lack of clarity regarding which activities are permitted inside the property, and some activities incompatible with OUV may be occurring inside the property.

In order to support a comprehensive resolution of these different issues, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite an IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property, to assess its state of conservation, clarify the boundaries of the property and buffer zone, and consider the measures needed to ensure any impacts from the above-mentioned issues and threats are avoided.

Finally, the tourism management system in place at the time of the property’s declaration as one of the “New 7 Wonders of Nature” did not have the capacity to accommodate the increasing influx of tourists resulting from that declaration. Tourism management should be further improved to avoid and mitigate negative impacts on the property.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2014
38 COM 7B.70
Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park (Philippines) (N 652rev)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 23 COM VIII.A.1, adopted at its 23rd session (Marrakesh, 1999),
  3. Notes with appreciation the State Party’s commitment to the protection and conservation of the property, and commends the efforts undertaken by the new park administration to regulate tourism and control illegal activities;
  4. Notes the State Party’s intention to carry out a Survey and Registration of Protected Areas Occupants (SRPAO) to clarify the issue of land claims and land sales in the property, and requests the State Party to take appropriate measures to remove illegal occupants from the property, while ensuring clear land titles for those occupants that are considered legal;
  5. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, an electronic and three printed copies of the draft revised management plan of the property, including a clear zoning scheme and regulations for appropriate tourism development within the property and its vicinity, for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
  6. Further requests the State Party to invite an IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property, in order to support a comprehensive resolution of the issues relating to the boundary of the property and buffer zone, impacts from the land claims and illegal land sales in the property, and to assess its state of conservation and consider the measures needed to ensure any impacts from the above-mentioned issues and threats are avoided, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015;
  7. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2015, a report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above recommendations, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.

Draft Decision:  38 COM 7B.70

The World Heritage Committee,

  1.   Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B.Add,
  2.   Recalling Decision 23 COM VIII.A.1, adopted at its 23rd session (Marrakesh, 1999),
  3.   Notes with appreciation the State Party’s commitment to the protection and conservation of the property, and commends the efforts undertaken by the new park administration to regulate tourism and control illegal activities;
  4.   Notes the State Party’s intention to carry out a Survey and Registration of Protected Areas Occupants (SRPAO) to clarify the issue of land claims and land sales in the property, and requests the State Party to take appropriate measures to remove illegal occupants from the property, while ensuring clear land titles for those occupants that are considered legal;
  5.   Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, an electronic and three printed copies of the draft revised management plan of the property, including a clear zoning scheme and regulations for appropriate tourism development within the property and its vicinity, for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
  6.   Further requests the State Party to invite an IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property, in order to support a comprehensive resolution of the issues relating to the boundary of the property and buffer zone, impacts from the land claims and illegal land sales in the property, and to assess its state of conservation and consider the measures needed to ensure any impacts from the above-mentioned issues and threats are avoided, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015;
  7.   Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, a report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above recommendations, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.
Report year: 2014
Philippines
Date of Inscription: 1999
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2014) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 38COM (2014)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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