The Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary
“Home to important Philippine endemic and exotic wildlife from Africa “
Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary (CGPWS) is the Philippines major conservation showcase for wildlife habitat holding the single distinction as the first successful wildlife translocation experiment in Asia. It has evolved to becoming a home of important Philippine endemic and exotic wildlife from Africa
The CGPWS was declared by Presidential Proclamation No. 1578 on August 31, 1976. It has total land area of 3,400 hectares with low-lying island in the Calamian group, north of Palawan, It is a short distance from the much larger island of Busuanga. The natural vegetation is lowland forest and mangroves along the coast. Much of the forest has now been replaced by plantations, secondary growth and open grassland. Marine habitat is said to have been haven to the dugong, sea turtles, giant clams, coral reefs and a sanctuary for commercial fish species as well.
Prior to the issuance of Presidential Proclamation 1578, about 100 families were already settled in the island. During the issuance of the Proclamation, Calauit was a settlement of more than 200 families whose primary livelihood was fishing.
Calauit Special Project started in 1997 with the introduction of eight species on an experimental basis to see whether the movement of African wildlife from a subtropical to tropical habitat would succeed. The exodus of 104 different exotic animal species composed of giraffe, eland, zebra, impala, bushbuck, gazelle and waterbuck arrived in the island. After 24 years, the number has increased dramatically except for gazelle and topi and is now in existence with some endemic and endangered Philippine wildlife.
Manifold preservation of near-to-extinct endemic wildlife of the Calamianes Group-Culion, Linapacan and Busuanga is also being undertaken in Calauit. In 1980s, Calamian Deer, Palawan Phesant Peacock, Balabac Mousedeer and Palawan Bear Cat mingled with the exotic animals of Africa. The endemic animals particularly the Calamian Deer tremendously soared in number.
In recent years, Calauit achieved its popularity as a unique tourist destination. It has continuously attracted students as well as local and foreign researches who undertake various scientific studies on ecology and wildlife related topics. However, much has to be done to protect the animals and marine resources of the Sanctuary. Conduct of research/studies as well as necessary infrastructure and facilities are obvious needs to ultimately attain its status of international standard and accommodate the influx of both local and foreign visitors.
With the establishment of the Sanctuary, the government exerted all its efforts to resettle the people in Halsey-Burabod in the nearby island of Culion. However, the re-entry of the displaced settlers which became the rallyist of the Balik Calauit Movement to the island and their legal activities is a major threat to the conservation efforts in the area. Their presence has caused some problems to the Sanctuary in terms of poaching, kaingin activities, high mortality of animals and disturbance to surrounding marine area. The DENR filed a case againt the BCM but this is still pending for resolution by the Court of Appeals.
On December 29, 1994, a Memorandum of Agreement between PCSD and DENR was signed turning over the Management of the Sanctuary to the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) effective January, 1995. The budget allocation of over P 4 million was likewise transferred from DENR to PCSD. Since then, the annual budget has not increased despite the increasing needs of the Sanctuary for the maintenance of an equally increasing population.
The insufficiency of funding from the government and the inadequacy of needed expertise for the proper care and maintenance of animals and its facilities prompted the PCSD through the initiative of Congressman Vicente A. Sandoval, PCSD Committee Chair for Tourism to privatize the Management of Calauit. In his proposal, Congressman Sandoval envisioned that through an innovative and more creative interaction of resources from both the government and private sector, the Sanctuary shall achieve its purpose without much dependence on the government support. This was conceptualized in line with then President Ramos’ decision to fast track the government privatization program to help reduce the government’s revenue shortfall. Based on this proposal, a 5-Year Development Plan was prepared by the PCSDS.
In 2000, Mr. Philip Cruz signified his interest in investing under the above-desribed scheme. He presented his management concept to the council in its July 2000 meeting. Later in March 2001, he again appeared before the Council and presented a schematic proposal.
Recently, however, the move to privatize Calauit fizzled out mainly due to the existing problem on the Balik Calauit Movement.. Lately the impact of the Abu Sayaf activities on tourism industry further contributed to weaning of prospective investors interest on Calauit.
Criminal case have been filed by the PCSDS against the two families both descendants of the Balik Calauit Movement (BCM) who have move in sometime last year and occupied the inner portion of Sanctuary. For about three months last year (mid June-September, 2000), and 8 -men WESCOM Composite team significantly helped in patrolling and securing the area thereby averted the possible influx of more squatters. Hower, due to other security concern of WESCOM, the contingent was pulled out in September 20000 and was replaced by a minimal number of PNP personnel. Said PNP personnel were likewise pulled out due to insufficiency of policemen in the province thereby leaving the security of the are to existing Calauit park wardens with inadequate firearms. The threat of an increasing squatter continues.
On the budgetary shortfall, the PCSDS is proposing for the establishment of a trust fundwith the Provincial Government where the fees collected from entrance fees can be deposited and utilized for Calauit’s Operation.