I. GENERAL INFORMATION

Area:                      89,134.76 hectares

Legal Basis:             Proclamation No. 32 dated October 8, 1998

Boundaries:            The northern boundaries of the PA include the Lalutaya Island and the north tip of Bucana Bay.  Westward, the boundaries extend to the outer periphery of Destacado Rocks.  On the southern end, from Destacado Rocks, the boundary continues down to Camago-Mabolo Islands and from there, touches the mainland at Liminangcong, including the Cataban estuary to Sandoval.  The eastern boundary follows the forest edge and avoids most of the alienable and disposable (A & D) lands along the eastern side of El Nido municipality.

Geographical Location : The Protected Area (PA) is located in the north-westernmost part of mainland Palawan, at approximately 119°24 E and 11°11’ N.  The South China Sea lies on the western side, and the municipality of Taytay, on the south. ENTMRPA is situated in the Province of Palawan, covering two (2) Municipalities: El Nido and Taytay. El Nido covers 18 barangays and three (3) in Taytay. 

Conservation Status:  Key Biodiversity Area (KBA)

 

Physical Environment

Topography

The topographical characteristics of the terrestrial areas of ENMRPA vary from rolling to the slightly rugged terrain of the Pagdanan Range on the eastern periphery.  On the western side of the town is the Palatore rock with an elevation of 470 meters.  The highest elevation in the PA is 640 meters in Cadlao Island; the highest peak on the mainland is Sincocan Peak at 636 m. The coastal areas are highly irregular, punctuated with sheer limestone cliffs with pockets of sandy beaches or rocky shorelines. 

Geology

The geology of El Nido is composed mainly of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.  Some geological faults were identified, e.g. the south-to-north fault on the Villa Libertad / Pasadeña boundary which gives rise to the Makinit hot spring.

There are five rock formations in El Nido: the (1) Bacuit formation, (2) Miniloc limestone, (3) Liminangcong chert, (4) Kapoas diorite intrusive and the (5) alluvium.  The only geologic hazard that has been established is the continuous weathering of limestone that endangers infrastructures adjacent to the cliffs.

The following are the features or sites with economic and eco-tourism value:

  • Limestone cliffs and caves naturally carved by rainwater;
  • White beaches from weathered limestone;
  • Kapoas diorite with its steep dome at the waterfalls in Bulalacao river;
  • Hotspring in Pasadeña from a deep seated fault; and
  • Sand bar in Viga
  • Alluvium broad plains for agricultural areas

 

Land Classification

Land tenure rights in El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area range from private title, A & D land with and without claimants, timber land, public land and land with tax declarations which people may or may not formally claim.

Land Classification within the PA

Land classification

Land area (hectares)

Timberland

28,082

Alienable & disposable

4,929

Residential

1,368

 

II. BIOLOGICAL FEATURES

There are five (5) major types of natural forest are represented in ENTMRPA.

 

Terrestrial Forest 

  • Lowland evergreen rainforest

Primary old growth and secondary forest grows along the mainland hills and mountain range of the ENTMRPA.  Trees belonging to the Dipterocarpaceae, Burseraceae, Sapotaceae, Meliaceae, Moraceae, Annonaceae, Leguminosae, and Guttiferae families dominate.  Several palm species and rattan genera are present. The herbaceous flora includes orchids, aroids, gingers and legumes.  This forest type is particularly rich in plant species and also forms an important habitat for many of the endemic, rare and threatened birds and mammals of Palawan.

 

  • Semi-deciduous forests

These are found on some of the more gently sloping terrain of the islands where soil is sparse. It include trees such as the oak family (Sterculia spp.) and dap-dap (Erythrina spp.).  Where soil cover is better developed, a greater proportion of evergreen trees are found. These narra (Pterocarpus indicus) and ipil (Instia bijuga) intermixed with low-stature, hardy, deciduous trees.

 

  • Forest over limestone

The karst islands and outcrops provide a variety of plant habitats ranging from exposed rock at all inclinations to scree slopes, fissures, shaded gullies, and caves. The lower slopes of many karst islands are directly exposed to wave action and salt spray.

Forest over limestone is composed of plant species which are highly adapted to both acidic and basic soils and to exposed, dry and windy conditions.  Most plant species in this forest type form assemblages with semi-deciduous forest species in areas with more generous amounts of soils.  This is the dominant type of vegetation in the lower karst hill formations.

 

  • Beach Forest

The beach forest on the sandy fringes of the small islands of the PA and the main coastline is made up of trees adapted to grow in nutrient-poor, sandy soil. This forest is important in stabilizing the shoreline from erosion and in providing shelter for the terrestrial forest further inland. Palms predominate but a large number of other species can also be found (Appendix 1.5.2). Of special note is the occurrence of patayud (Messerschmidia argentea) and Hoya sp., which are characteristic of sandy beaches in many parts of Southeast Asia but rare in the Philippines.

 

Littoral Zone Habitats

 

  • Mangrove forests 

Estuarine mangrove forest is the most widely distributed in ENTMRPA.  These are found around major rivers and creeks on the mainland, including Taberna River north of Bucana, the rivers of Villa Libertad, Dagal–Dagal Bay and Bebeladan, and Cataban River. The coastal/island mangrove forests are commonly much smaller, often forming narrow strips along the coastline that are not necessarily connected with rivers and creeks, e.g. at Cadlao Island, Snake Island, Pasadena, Bebeladan and Manlag.

 

  • Beaches

Steep sandy beaches, are an essential nesting habitat for marine turtles. Within the ENTMRPA, nesting beaches are increasingly subject to disturbance from human presence (particularly at night), human settlements, tourism developments and artificial lighting.  This results in nesting females shifting their nesting sites, and sometimes being forced to use less suitable beaches.  Egg laying can thus be aborted or delayed.  Poaching of turtle eggs for human consumption is also a problem.

 

Marine Habitats

There are two major marine habitat types: seagrass and seaweed beds, and coral reefs:

  • Seagrass and/ or seaweed beds

Seagrass beds occur mainly in intertidal or shallow, inshore beds over sand, mud and coral-sand substrates. These are significant breeding, spawning and nursery grounds for fish species as well as an important habitat for dugongs (Dugong dugon) and some species of marine turtle. Seagrasses, such as syringe grass (Syringodium isoetifolium) and the seeds of eelgrass (Enhalus acoroides), are used for human consumption. The ENTMRPA has eight (8) species of seagrass (lusay) (UP MSI, 1998); their biomass, distribution and epiphytic growth are all seasonal as are the flora (e.g. algae/seaweeds) and fauna (e.g. dugongs, marine turtles, and fish of the family Siganidae) associated with them.

The distribution and density of seagrasses have been linked to several factors including substrate type, nutrient content and availability, light and protection from wave energy. Major seagrass beds are located around the township of El Nido Poblacion, extending north toward the airport, in the western bays of Cadlao Island, Dagal-Dagal Bay, Mainlong Bay, coastal areas of Bebeladan, and Custodia Point.

Seaweed areas are found predominantly in inshore tidal and shallow areas that are sometimes associated with seagrass or with coral reefs. The dominant genera of seaweed are Padina, Sargassum, Gracilaria and Caulerpa.

 

  • Coral reefs

Coral reefs are colonial calcareous structures formed by the skeletons of scleractinian (hard) corals and other organisms. Reefs are important fish-feeding grounds and a source of building materials and medicines.

 

Fauna Species

 ·         Birds

The sixteen bird species endemic to Palawan and found in ENTMRPA are dependent on natural forests. Nine (9) species are considered common; five (5) uncommon; and one (1) vulnerable. 

Species of Birds in ENTMRPA

Name of Flagship Species

Common Name

Status

Centropus viridis

Philippine Coucal

Endemic

Chloropsis palawanensis

Yellow throated Leafbird

Endemic

Hypsipetes palawanensis

Sulphur-bellied Bulbul

Endemic

Parus amabilis

Palawan Tit

Endemic

Stachyris hypogrammica

Palawan Stripped Babbler

Endemic

Cyornis lemprieri

Palawan Blue Flycatcher

Endemic

Copsychus niger

White vented Shama

Endemic

Aethopyga shelleyi

Lovely Sunbird

Endemic

Dicaeum pygmaeum

Pygmy Flowerpecker

Endemic

Collocalia troglodytes

Pygmy Swiftlet

Endemic

Terpsiphone cyanescens

Blue Paradise Flycatcher

Endemic

Egretta sacra

Eastern Reef-Egret

Endemic

Egretta garzetta

Little Egret

Endemic

Nycticorax caledonicus

Rufous Night Heron

Endemic

Dendrocygna arcuata

Wandering whistling duck

Endemic

Dicaeum aeruginosum

Striped Flowerpecker

Endemic

Polyplectron emphanum

Palawan Peacock Pheasant

Threatened

Prioniturus platenae

Blue-headed Racquet Tail

Threatened

Anthracoceros marchei

Palawan Hornbill

Threatened

Ficedula plateni

Palawan Flowerpecker

Threatened

Otus fuliginosus

Palawan Scops Owl

Threatened

Spizaetus philippensis

Philippine Hawk Eagle

Threatened

Ducula pickeringii

Grey Imperial Pigeon

Threatened

Tanygnathus lucionensis

Blue-naped Parrots

Threatened

Malacopteron palawanense

Melodious babbler

Threatened

Egretta eulophotes

Chinese Egret

Threatened

            * Source: KKP Wildlife Report

 

·         Mammals

Six (6) species of large terrestrial mammal are limited to the Philippines in the Palawan faunal region. Rare or endangered, all are found in ENTMRPA.  Of the six species, (3) three are classified as rare; (2) two as vulnerable; and (1) one, the Malayan Pangolin (Manis javanica), as seriously endangered.  These species are threatened directly or indirectly by reduction in forest cover and five are actively hunted. 

Scaly Anteaters have been sighted on Cadlao Island.   The anteater is one of the most endangered species on Palawan (Gonzales, 1998).  Isolated populations of squirrels have also been noted on Cadlao, Miniloc, Lagen, Matinloc and Tapiutan Islands.  These appear to be different from squirrels on the mainland and may be island-endemic species or sub-species (Gonzales, 1998).

·         Coral Species

A total of 45 genera of hard corals were found in ENTMRPA.  The highest number of identified hard corals was found in Mabolo Island with 27, and the lowest, in Camago Island with 11.  On the other hand, the site with the highest number of identified hard coral genera was in Dilumacad Island, with 29 genera while the lowest was the site near Sitio Kiminawit and Pakanayos Island.  The coral generally observed in all the transect sites is Galaxea.  Other genera found in almost all the sites (except one transect site) are Acropora (branching), Favia, Favites, Porites and SeriatoporaAlveopora was observed in only one transect site, while Heliofungia and Leptastrea were similarly recorded in only one transect site.

·         Fish Species

Studies conducted by the DENR in 1999 recorded 197 fish species belonging to 28 families in the PA.  These included all the major coral reef fish families including the butterfly (Chaetodontidae), parrot (Scaridae), wrasses (Labridae), trigger (Balistidae), angel (Pomacanthidae), surgeon (Acanthuridae), damsel (Pomacentridae), emperors (Lethrinidae), snappers (Lutjanidae), groupers (Serranidae), and rabbit (Siganidae).  

In addition, previously common organisms such as Tridacna shells are now rare while lobsters, Trochus shells, green snails and edible sea cucumbers have all but disappeared.

·         Marine Turtles

Four (4) species of marine turtle are found in the ENTMRPA: the Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), the green sea (Chelonia mydas), the olive ridley sea (Lepidochelys olivacea) and the leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). These turtles are sighted year round throughout the PA.  While nesting is usually from February to May; Hawksbills are known to nest year round. Turtle nesting sites have been identified by the local community and experts from the Pawikan Conservation Project (Vidler, 1998).  

·         Dolphins and Whales

Dolphins and whales have been sighted in the waters within and adjacent ENTMRPA. Whales (toothed and baleen) have been sighted more commonly in deeper waters while dolphins, in both coastal and offshore waters.  Species which have been reported and/or sighted include: the Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris), Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni) and Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) (Tan, 1995). Accidental catches of dolphins have been reported particularly in shark nets.

·         Dugong

Dugongs (Dugong dugon) are regularly sighted in the PA, particularly from May to August, when seagrass is plentiful. Dugongs feed almost exclusively on seagrass with an observed preference for Halophila and Halodule species. Dugong sightings occur mostly around the El Nido Poblacion extending north towards the Lio airport, on Cadlao Island, in Dagal-Dagal Bay and in Mainlong Bay. Occasional sightings have also been reported in other areas along the coast. Dugongs, once actively hunted in the area for their meat and fat, are now a protected species and are rarely caught. However, Dugongs being trapped accidentally in baklads (fish pens) within the PA have been reported. Residents use dugong products (e.g. tusks, fat) to make traditional medicines.

 

III. SOCIO-ECONOMIC FEATURES

Farming, fishing and tourism are the major sources of income.  The major cash crops are rice, mango, cashew, coconut and banana.  Fisheries include groupers, sweetlips, lobsters, mud crabs and squid.  One major seasonal ‘resource’ is the edible swift’s nests which commands a high market price.

Basic services for the people include: education (daycare centers, elementary, high school, collegiate and vocational); churches (twelve identified sects); municipal and barangay health units (traditional healthcare-givers, midwives and a nurse); found all over the ENTMRPA.

             

IV. USES

·         Tourism 

Tourism in El Nido commenced in 1983 when Ten Knots Development, Inc., a Filipino-Japanese joint venture company, opened a divers’ resort on Miniloc Island and an airstrip (Lio airport) at Villa Libertad on the mainland to provide access to the area. In 1984, the company set up a second resort on Pangulasian Island, and in 1998, the third and largest resort on Lagen Island. The opening of the third resort coincided with the destruction of the Pangulasian Resort by fire.  During this period, several other tourism establishments were also developed, paving the way for a thriving tourism sector. 

Aside from the beaches, cliffs, and the underwater world, other attractions for the tourists should also be considered for control and/or protection.  These are the Bulalacao falls, the Makinit hotspring and the caves.

 

V. THREATS

There are now increasing signs of impacts directly attributed to human activities and the tourism industry which include: 

  • Pollution from waste and sewage disposal 
  • Damage to coral reefs caused by anchoring and, to a lesser degree, recreational activities such as diving, snorkeling and collecting
  • Disturbance of marine turtle and tabon bird nesting sites
  • Beach erosion