By Jessaveth Barcia and Jonalyn Morilla
LEGAZPI CITY, April 17 (PNA) — Catanduanes, a satellite island of Luzon which remains the largest block of forest and considered as the last frontier of the Bicol Region, stands proudly and steadfastly after having been battered by even the most furious and cruel typhoon.
The land of the "howling winds" is carpeted mainly by lowland dipterocarp forests and rich coconut plantations.
The fast decreasing of forest areas, however, has posed a serious threat to the province — perhaps, worse than playful storms — due to non-stop illegal logging and deforestation, which threatens the livelihood of its people.
"We are, however, enhancing our forest protection efforts in the province," Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Director Gilbert Gonzales disclosed to the Philippines News Agency on Friday.
He said the area of coverage of forest protection has increased to almost 55,336.83 hectares owing to the advocacy of the agency against illegal logging.
The largest forest protection, reaching 79.62 percent of entire forest, is located in the province of Catanduanes.
In municipalities of Caramoan and San Miguel, old-growth (virgin) forest is increasing.
Old growth forest in the province is considered as the last frontier of the Bicol Region in terms of closed forest cover and biodiversity that are preserved and protected.
The province belongs to the 80 priority Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) out of the 228 KBAs in the country covered by the Protected Area Management Enhancement (PAME) of the Alemania government since the endangering of species is irreversible, Gonzales said.
Some of these endangered species are butuaan, one of the largest lizards; Philippine dwarf kingfisher, which belongs to the species of birds; serpent eagle wood pecker; Philippine deer; cloud rats; wild pig; Philippine Macaque, long-tailed macaque or cynomolgus monkey; fruit bats; flying foxes and different kinds of snake and frog.
The region has almost 537,038.92 hectares of forest areas, 70.13 percent of which, or 376,06.41 hectares, has been developed into production forest needs, while 29.84 percent is forest protection areas (60,434.83 hectares). (PNA)