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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, December 12, 2016
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MKNP management set-up

I am impressed how my different successors as park superintendent and other personnel of the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park in Negros Island have sustained the management of the protected area after I vacated the position in June 2002.

I had the chance to revisit the MKNP on November 21-23, 2016 when I was with the staff of the Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. in facilitating the learning visit to the site of some stakeholders of the Mount Calavite Wildlife Sanctuary in Occidental Mindoro.

From what I had observed, seen, and heard, there are numerous insights that could be distilled on how PA management should be from the MKNP. While totally securing the MKNP from illegal and destructive activities is far from over, and there are numerous challenges still at hand, some noticeable efforts and innovations are worth looking into that will further boost it as one learning venue on good practices in PA management.

The dismantling of the former MKNP office, due to the rationalization of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, did not create a vacuum on its management. DENR–Negros Island Regional Director Al Orolfo tasked Joan Nathaniel Gerangaya of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office in Bago City to take over as the head of the MKNP, in addition to his main responsibility as the CENR officer. The DENR Region VI in Iloilo City has retained the supposedly regular position of park superintendent intended for the MKNP.

With only a handful of young and yet committed contractual personnel left to take charge of the daily activities in the MKNP, Joan reengineered the structure of his office to integrate and mainstream the management of the area into the overall system of CENRO Bago City. With this arrangement, the different units of the CENRO can be mobilized in the operations of the MKNP. This system is working well at the moment, and Joan said he is contended with the set-up, although he expressed that the PA management is quite heavy and absorbing most of his time and efforts. He is likewise the deputy park superintendent of the Northern Negros Natural Park.

I am wondering how many CENR officers in the country are in the same wavelength with Joan in terms of PA management. There are cases when it seems that PA is not given importance by some CENROs, who are similarly designated as park superintendents. Joan obliged with the challenges of the task, not only because it was assigned to him, but also being a Negrosanon, who believes that this legendary landmark of Negros Island should be protected.

As the park superintendent of the MKNP, Joan expressed that he could not just be complacent with arising issues. He said members of the MKNP Protected Area Management Board are actively involve in various working committees that are dealing with numerous concerns, and, therefore, it is only imperative for him and his staff to be proactive. He is conscious of his responsibility as the secretariat to the operations of the PAMB, and his accountability as the lead person to implement the decisions rendered by the MKNP board.

What is also inspiring, Joan added, is the active participation of communities in conservation activities. He cited the continuing efforts of the Kanla-on Green Brigade in forest protection and fire prevention and suppression. Several KGBs, who met with the group from Mindoro, testified that they are voluntarily working, because they see the need to protect the MKNP and they call it their very own home.

In a way, these volunteers have already internalized their participation in the management of the PA. Several other community groups in the MKNP are engaged in forest restoration, sustainable livelihood, and ecotourism, and Joan considers them as valuable partners in his assignment as the park superintendent.

I could only admire Joan of his overwhelming assignments, but he looks forward that there should be a separate entity within the DENR to concentrate in the management of the MKNP. While he and his staff are more than willing to prioritize concerns of the MKNP, they can't get away, too, with other equally important concerns of the CENRO.

This is where the challenge of the DENR regional offices and Biodiversity Management Bureau in pushing for the establishment of a regular protected area office in every declared protected area in the country, otherwise, we need more of the like of Joan, who is willing to sacrifice his time and efforts to accommodate multiple tasks and functions without additional remuneration. As a former park superintendent, I could only attest that working in a protected area is a reward by itself.*

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