In the Philippines, out of the six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, only one can be found in Mindanao. That is the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary found in Davao Oriental, the only mountain range heritage site in the country. It is for this reason that the province deems it as its “Most Treasured Natural Jewel”.
Inscribed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2014,the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary boasts of a unique pygmy forest of century old trees in ultramafic soil considered by many as one of the very few all over the world and hosts a rich biodiversity of endangered, endemic and rare species of flora and fauna. Among the residents of this wildlife sanctuary is the country’s national bird, the endangered Philippine Eagle.
Mount Hamiguitan lies in the middle of a narrow peninsula with the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Davao Gulf to the west. Situated at the southern end of the Eastern Mindanao Biodiversity Corridor, Mount Hamiguitan covers 31,879 hectares of beach, lowland, montane, and mossy forest types. It occupies the land area within the political boundaries of San Isidro, Governor Generoso and the province’s capital, the City of Mati.
On July 30, 2004, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary was declared as Protected Area by virtue of Philippine Republic Act No. 9303 “declaring Mt. Hamiguitan Range and its vicinity as protected area under the category of wildlife sanctuary and its peripheral areas as buffer zone”.
In 2007, Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon led a highly ambitious initiative to have the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary inscribed in the highly prestigious World Heritage List. She believes that the inscription of the wildlife sanctuary to the World Heritage List is an excellent opportunity to draw the attention of visitors and remind local residents of the “Outstanding Universal Value” of the mountain range.
Seven years after, during the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee in June 2014 in the City of Doha, Qatar, the crown jewel of Davao Oriental was finally enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first inscribed mountain range in the Philippines and the first World Heritage Site in Mindanao.
Being part of the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List, it is expected that Mt. Hamiguitan will not only attract more tourists but also scientists and researchers coming from both national and international communities. Hence, public awareness of Mt. Hamiguitan and its outstanding values to the world will be heightened to raise global awareness.
Long before it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is a favorite among mountain climbers and outdoor enthusiasts. It’s not only because of its amazing landscaped Pygmy Forest but also with other natural wonders that abound the mountain range. Two of other favorite features of Mt. Hamiguitan are the Tinagong Dagat (Hidden Sea) and Twin Waterfalls.
As a World Heritage Site, the Provincial Government is required by the UNESCO to develop an interpretation site to purposely promote and educate the locals as well as tourists about its outstanding universal value. With support coming from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) of the Department of Tourism, the Provincial Government then spearheaded the development of a tourism facility complex at the buffer zone area of the heritage mountain. This world class facility is known as Mount Hamiguitan World Heriatge Park and is situated in the town of San Isidro.
The Eco-Park covers 12.84 hectares and features a Natural Science Museum with an interpretation center for tourist who wants to have an experience of the area, especially the pygmy forest. It has also a Research Center and cabins for researchers. For outdoor enthusiasts, the complex also boasts of exciting mountain trails, a hanging bridge, adventures tree top, butterfly trails, bird watching deck, gardens and camping grounds. It has also souvenir shops and a restaurant.
From the highway up to the site, the Department of Public Works and Highways provided the access concrete road. On the other hand, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources set up a Hamiguitan Biodiversity Research Center within the site.
The construction of the entire complex including all the buildings, museum interiors, park amenities outdoor interpretation as well as its landscaping took 13 months to complete. The construction started on November 2014 until December 2015.
Five months after its completion, finally the Mount Hamiguitan World Heritage Park is open to the people and the rest of the world. The historic unveiling was spearheaded by the mother of the Province, Governor Corazon Malanyaon with President Benigno Aquino III as the special guest of honor.
Truly, the UNESCO inscription together with the development of the Mount Hamiguitan World Heritage Park provide a great prestige and honor not only to the leaders and the people of Province of Davao Oriental but the country as a whole. It showcases and celebrates the fortitude of its people in protecting and conserving their natural treasures.
As someone who hails from Davao Oriental, I feel so honored to share this greatest achievement with my Province. There is so much pride in my heart knowing that my home province is now known as home to world-class destinations like our most treasured jewel, the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary. My shout-out of gratitude to our dearest outgoing Governor Corazon Malanyaon. Your legacy and dedication will never be forgotten.