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DENR IX conducts 9th cave forum; creates cave rescue team

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“The primary reason we classify caves is to conserve, protect and manage the natural wealth and heritage of caves and the resources found therein,” said Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) IX Protected Areas, Wildlife and Coastal Zone Management Services (PAWCZMS) Regional Technical Director (RTD) Gil T. Ona during the Opening Ceremony of the 9th Mindanao Cave Forum held last October 12-18, 2014 in Quiniput, Zamboanga City.

Aside from the DENR-IX, the 9th Cave Forum is co-sponsored by the Department of Tourism IX, City Government of Zamboanga, Department of Education IX, Zamboanga Peninsula Cavers Association Inc. (ZPCAI) and the Philippine Speleological Society.

The theme for this year’s cave forum is “Cueva de Zamboanga: Protegido y Conservao por un Sustenable Turismo (Caves of Zamboanga: Protected and Conserved for Sustainable Tourism.”

“The DENR cannot do the classification, conservation, and management of our caves alone that is why active partnership with academe, LGU, spelunkers and caving associations is important,” said Marlyn Mendoza, the official representative of Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim, Director, Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the DENR Central Office. Mendoza is the Caves and Wetlands Division Chief of the BMB.

The cave forum was attended by teachers, students, barangay officials of the host communities (Latuan, Victoria, and Quiniput), members of caving and spelunking associations, members of the Regional Cave Committee, representatives from the Philippine Air Force (PAF), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), and DENR-IX personnel.

Courses offered during the cave forum were Basic Caving, Cave Assessment, Cave Survey and Mapping, Cave Photography and Cave Rescue. Demonstration on Single Rope Technique (SRT) and cave rescue were also conducted by Marc Mentens, President of ZPCAI. After the courses, participants were given the chance to apply their training through cave explorations in the Seven Doors Cave (Latuan), Pader Cave (Victoria) and Quiniput Cave, in Zamboanga City.

“Proper identification and classification of our caves will help in the proper management of these caves, which will, in turn, allow us to open the caves for eco-tourism,” said DENR IX Protected Areas and Wildlife Division Chief Cidur J. Julsadjiri.

According to Julsadjiri, caves are classified into three: Class I (for research purposes only and closed to the public), Class II (partly open and partly closed), and Class III (open to the public).

According to RTD Ona, the output of the participants’ fieldwork will be helping the three host communities in the exploration and assessment for future cave classification and proper management planning.

“Cave assessment is significant in the planning process of cave management since the assessment will identify the resources within the cave – biological, geological, and speleothems – and the different human activities that contribute to the depletion or damage to the cave and cave resources,” said DENR IX Ecosystems Management Specialist Michael dela Cruz. “This will also form part of the basis for cave classification.”

One highlight of this forum is the creation of a cave rescue team for Zamboanga Peninsula. This will ensure that we will be prepared to respond and address to possible accidents in the future.”

Mentens, who conducted the lecture and demonstration on cave rescue, said, “Members of the rescue team must have the necessary technical skill set in so it is imperative to conduct trainings and cave explorations to broaden their knowledge and experience.”

“In cave rescue, it is crucial for teams to switch every three hours because rescuers get tired. When you’re tired, you make mistakes and mistakes can be fatal,” Mentens added.

According to dela Cruz, the PAF, BFP and PNP have already expressed their willingness to support the formation of the cave rescue team. The next step now is to identify the roles and responsibilities of all agencies involved and conduct trainings accordingly.  (MT DENRIX – RPAO)




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