Philippines is endowed with karst landscapes dotted by caves and cave systems. Caves are naturally occurring void, cavity, recess or system of interconnected passages beneath the surface of the earth or within a cliff or ledge, large enough to permit an individual to enter. Caves are enriched with important scientific, economic, educational, cultural, historical and aesthetic values. They are also home to specialized mineral formations, as well as unique and diverse flora and fauna.
As of today, over 1,500 caves have been recorded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) since the start of its implementation of the Caves Management and Conservation Program (CMCP) in 1994, with still a significant number of caves yet to be discovered and mapped. Four caves were already proclaimed under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act with the category Protected landscape. These are: Peñablanca Protected Landscape (Tuguegarao, Cagayan), Pamitinan Protected Landscape (Rodriguez, Rizal) Calbiga Protected Landscape (Northern Samar) and Banahaw San Cristobal Protected Landscape (Quezon and Laguna).
Continuously, various efforts are being conducted for the protection of our caves. There are also various policies issued in support of RA 9072, otherwise known as the National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act of 2001. They include the: Cave Act Implementing Rules and Regulations (DAO 2003-29); Cave Classification Guidelines and Manual (DMC 2007-04) and Guidelines in Treasure Hunting in Caves (DAO 2007-34). Draft policies on Cave Ecotourism and Edible Birds Nest Collection are also being reviewed jointly with other cave coordinating agencies.
To further cave management and protection, a National Cave Committee was formed chaired by the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) with Cave Coordinating Agencies such as National Museum (NM), National Historical Institute (NHI), Department of Tourism DOT), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Leagues of Municipalities (LM), University of the Philippines-National Institute of Geological Science (UP-NIGS) and Gaia Exploration Club (GEC), Mines and GeoSciences Bureau (MGB) and Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) as members. PCSD leads the implementation of the Cave Act in the Province of Palawan.
In the Regional Field Offices, there are eleven regions which have reactivated their Regional Cave Committees while the rest are in various stages of reactivation. They all embarked on detailed assessment of caves based on prescribed cave assessment forms under DMC 2007-04. Based on submitted reports received by PAWB in 2008, only Region 6 and Region 10 have completed the full process prescribed in the said DMC. Region 6 was able to classify 35 caves as of December 2008 with the full participation of Mines Sector, NM, Western Visayas Caving Association (WVCA), Iloilo Mountaineering Club and Friends of the Flying Foxes. It is also supported by the concerned Local Government Units of all levels and the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB). The classified caves are both within and outside protected areas using the prescribed forms under the said DMC.
Other Regions have also started cave classification process. The target for CY 2009 is one (1) cave per Region. Eleven out of 15 Regions reported that MOA have been/are being forged with local government units/non-government organizations/private landowners (DENR-CAR, DENR Region Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4B, 6,8, 9, 10, 11,and 12).
Research activities related to climate change were also being undertaken by Drs. Fernando Siringan of UP-MSI and Bayani Cardenas of University of Texas in Austin entitled: Changes in precipitation in the Philippines and the Evaluation of the East Asia Monsoon Inferred from Stalagmites Geochemical Record and Paleoclimate data from Chemical and Isotopic Composition of the Stalagmites to collaborate modern climate data with water samples and mineral samples from activity growing speleothems, respectively.
The DENR also participates in the yearly National Caving Congress organized by the Philippine Speleological Society Incorporated (PSSI) with its partner’s organizations. The Cave Congress has proven to be an important medium for sharing of ideas and information exchange between governmental and non-governmental organizations involved in cave conservation and management.
However, funds infusion from the National Budget and other sources are needed to sustain the above activities.