Tubbataha Reef officially launched as 35th ASEAN Heritage Park

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The Tubbataha Reef Natural Park is the 8th ASEAN Heritage Park (AHP) in the Philippines.

Puerto Princesa, Palawan (CNN Philippines) — The Philippines' Tubbataha Reef Natural Park (TRNP) was officially launched as the 35th ASEAN Heritage Park on Thursday (November 5).

"A piece of heaven on Earth" is how ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity's Executive Director Atty. Roberto Oliva described the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, which is recognized as having the highest coral diversity in the world.

Tubattaha_2_CNNPH.png Located in the center of Sulu Sea in the municipality of Cagayancillo, Palawan, the 97,030 hectares of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is home to 84 threatened and 97 near-threatened species of marine life.

Oliva added that the TRNP is located at the apex of the Coral Triangle, the global center of marine biodiversity.

The TRNP is the 7th ASEAN Heritage Park (AHP) in the Philippines, and the first ever marine park to be chosen.

The other terrestrial locations named as part of AHP are Mt. Apo National Park, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park, Mt. Kitanglad Range National Park, Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve, Mt. Malindang Range National Park, and the Mt. Timpoong Hibok-Hibok National Monument, which is yet to be officially launched.

Jay Bolosa, an official in Palawan, said that the addition of Tubbataha as an AHP is simply an affirmation of what the city and other organizations have been doing in order to protect the biodiverse marine that is teeming with life.

"This is something really worth fighting for," he said.

ASEAN-Heritage-Parks-in-the-Philippines.png Infographic by Yla Corotan  

What it means to be one of the ASEAN Heritage Parks

The heritage sites included in the AHP are the first in line for available international funding.

It also facilitates reporting and contribution to the World Heritage Program.

Other benefits include the promotion of ecotourism and participation in joint research and management, facilitating of information sharing, and the enhancement of the capacity of key stakeholders.

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, an intergovernmental organization composed of 10 ASEAN countries, meticulously choose the sites to be named as an ASEAN Heritage Park.

Oliva noted that the ASEAN only occupies three percent of the world's Earth surface, but 20 percent of the known flora and fauna and 30 percent of the best coral reefs can be found in Southeast Asia.

Oliva acknowledged the threats and challenges the Tubbataha Reef is facing, such as overexploitation, illegal fishing, shipping activities, and climate change.