SESAM joins the 19th National Cave Congress of the Philippines

caveSESAM explored one of the newly discovered caves in Sta. Teresita, Cagayan, the Tabacco Cave in 2016. Caves are important ecosystems that need to be studied for biodiversity and tourism.

Baggao, Cagayan--The 19th National Cave Congress was recently held at the Municipality of Baggao, Cagayan Province last 6-10 March 2019 with Dr. Rico Ancog as a plenary speakerunder the theme, “The Importance of Karst and Cave Water Resource, Biodiversity and Risk Management.” 

Organized by the Philippine Speleological Society, Inc (PSS) in collaboration with the Biodiversity Management Bureau-Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-BMB) and the Department of Tourism (DOT), the congress gathered spelunkers, scientists, biologists, and various stakeholders from local government units, research institutions and state university and colleges in the Philippines.

The congress was being organized in support to the implementation of Republic Act 9072 or the National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act. It tackled major issues to advance caves and karst conservation, management and educate the people on the importance of caves and karst. It also trained the attendees on several trainings on basic caving, cave mapping, cave management, single rope technique and cave rescue.

Dr. Ancog elaborated on the importance of understanding cave use and conservation from institutional lens and highlighted the need to clarify the property rights regime of a given cave system. Using data from DENR-BMB, Dr. Ancog provided status of the Philippine caves focusing on the classified 3007 caves across the country as of September 2018. Of these, only 1085 were assessed and about 616 of which has been duly classified that then determines its specific allowable use. Out of the total 1085 assessed caves in the country, about 218 are located within protected areas. Of the 616 classified, about 328 have assessment reports formulated, 274 with maps, and only 280 been issued with specific municipal resolutions. Using the case of Pangasinan Province (n=120 caves), it is shown that the status of caves (exploited, vandalized, intact) is significantly affected by location (outside or within PA), land status (within A&D, timberland, private land, etc.) and classification types (Class 1, 2 and 3). 

The study of Dr. Ancog proposed a research agenda focusing on the governance and management imperatives of the Philippine caves to strengthen its conservation. These include: studies clarifying property rights and regimes to clarify individual and collective rights as well responsibilities of parties and stakeholders; Accounting for caves ecosystems as natural capital thereby requiring economic valuation studies, more biodiversity assessments, and strengthened integration and considerations in the environmental impact systems; identification of models and frameworks towards adaptive cave governance: and the application of resilience thinking in the research framework and practice of cave conservation in the country.