Apo Reef was proclaimed as Protected Area under the category of Natural Park and it Surrounding waters as buffer zone by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 868, dated September 6, 1996. The Apo Reef Natural Park (ARNP) and its peripheral Buffer Zone covers an area of 15,792 hectares and 11,677 hectares, respectively, totaling 27,469 hectares in all.
Prior to its declaration as a Protected Area under the category of Natural Park, Apo Reef has been designated as Marine Park through Presidential Proclamation No. 1801 in 1980, authorizing the Philippine Tourism Authority PTA to undertake the development and Management of the area. It was also declared a tourist Zone and Marine Reserve by virtue of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro Sangguaniang Bayan Resolution No. 1108 in 1983.
Apo Reef, the largest atoll like reef in the Philippines, is a submerged platform that is a submerged of a 34 sqkm sub triangular northern m and southern atoll like reefs separated by a 30-m deep channel that is open to the west The channel runs east to west from 1.8 m to 30 m deep with a fine white sand bottom numerous mounds and patches of branching corals under the deep blue water.
The main geographical features of Apo Reef is submerged. There are three islands that mark it on the surface, the Apo Island, Apo Menor (Binangaan'; and Cayos del Bajo Tinangkapang). The largest is Apo Island (22.0) hectares which harbors mangroves and beach vegetations, whereas Binangaan is rocky Iimestone island with relatively few vegetation and Cayos del Bajo (200-300 sq.m.) is a coralline rock formation with no vegetation.
Apo Reef lies at coordinates 12'44"47"and 12'35'47" north latitude and 120'23'46" and 120 33'44" east longitude. It is located 15 nautical miles west of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro and 21 nautical miles northeast of the Calamian Group of Islands, northern Palawan.
Habitat & Ecosystems
Apo Reef contains a wide variety of habitat types which have high scientific, educational and recreational values. There are five (5) major habitats classified according to structure and vegetation type present, the sandy beach, beach forest, mangrove forest, coral reefs and sea grass and algae flat.
The area also possesses interesting sub- marine physiographic formation such as coral walls, caves and drop off; and a presence of shipwrecks which are popular dive sites among diving enthusiasts.
Flora & Fauna
The islands in Apo Reef serve as rookeries for 47 species of migratory and resident breeders birds and endemic species of wildlife including the endangered Nicobar Pigeon (Caloenas nicobarico, Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), and Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).Relaesing Turtles into the sea
Fortysix (46) species of plants (terrestrial), 7 species of sea grasses and 26 species of algae are also found in Apo Reef Natural Park.
Apo Reef has 190 species of scleractini and corals belonging to 38 Genera and species of non-scleractinians corals. These species of corals were identified in a study conducted in 1981 on the eastern part of the Apo Island, on relatively small area of the reef that represents 38% of the 500 species know record of the Philippines.
The reef waters abound with 385 species of colorful marine fishes including families of sharks, stingrays, mantas, school of jacks and snappers, swarms of tropical aquarium fish and crevice-dwelling moray:-, blennies and gobies. The record of 148 species of visually conspicuous reef fishes from 24 families may be considered relatively good compared to other reef sites in the Philippines (Atrigenio et al., 1994).Turtle laying eggs on Apo Island
Common invertebrates seen in the area include various species of starfishes, holotharians, sea urchins, crinoids, sea squirts, brittle stars, worms, sponges, snails, nudibranches, clams, rare shells, octopus and squid. These invertebrate- belongs to 78 genera. Among the ecologically important invertebrates identified were the Giant Clams gridacoa), Lobster (Pasulirus), Cone Shell (Conus), Triton Shell (Charonia) and Nautilus Shell Species of Coconut Crab is also dwelling in the karstic rock of Apo Island.
All of these breathtaking marine resources give divers an unforgettable and rewarding experience.
Coral cover has declined significantly since the 1979 survey of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Center at Apo Reef. The average coral cover then was 50%. The recent appraisal of coral cover made by CPPAP noted an overall coral cover of just 33%, which is similar to the average coral cover observed by Atrigenio et al. in 1994.
a) the two crystalline blue water lagoons with a fine sand bottom dotted with numerous mounds and branching corals, bounded by narrow reef platforms covered with colorful species of hard and soft corals;
b) the islands serve as rookeries for migratory birds- and other species of wildlife;
c) the 10 has. mangrove forest surrounding the lagoon at Apo lsland, serves as bird sanctuary especially the endangered Nicobar ' Pigeon; ' as source of food; nursery and, spawning grounds of many coastal and ' marine species and their natural state help stabilize coastal zone by protecting it from storm and soil erosion;
d) the coral reefs which is considered the
most productive ecosystem, serves as habitat for various fishes and invertebrates; as a buffer against destructive ocean forces and as land builders by their capacity to secrete lime and
e) the sandy beaches of Apo Island which serves as nesting areas for the Green sea and Hawksbill Turtles.
The IPAS Project
In the quest for a more comprehensive program in protected area management the concept of an Integrated Protected Areas System (IPAS) was developed in 1989 by the Haribon Foundation, a non-governmental organization (NCO), through a grant by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF)-US. By 1990, IPAS Phase I, an 18-month study was undertaken. Its major achievements included the enactment of Republic Act 7586 establishing the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) in 1992 and its implementing rules and regulations, and the tentative listing of IP sites all over the country and the identification of ten (10) priority sites including the IPAS Reef Natural Park.
The second phase of IPAS is generally known as the implementation stage. The Conservation of Priority Protected Areas Project (CPPAP), which is being funded by the Global Environmental Facility (CEF) forms part of this phase. Implementation of this project in a ten 10 - pilot sites identified during IPAS Phase I, is currently being jointly undertaken by the Government of the Philippines (COP), through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources DENR and a consortium of local and national development and environment- oriented NGO's, the NGO's for Integrated Protected Areas (NIPA), Inc.
Grounded on the framework set by the NIPAS Act, active participation of local communities and other non-traditional PA Management actors is a crucial element in the project's implementation. The vehicle for this is the DENR, LGU's and the civil society e.g. PO:, ICCs, and NGOs). The CPPAP is an an attempt to contextualize the new strategy of protected area management which addresses the various social, cultural, political and economic values that influence protected area management of the Philippines.
The NIPAS law espouses the twin objectives of biodiversity management and sustainable development. The law gives cognizance to the urgent need to sustainable manage the finite resources of a protected area, in order to achieve the holistic development of local communities.