Zambales Mountains

The Zambales Mountain Range extends from north to south of southern and eastern Pangasinan Province, and southwards along the border between Zambales and Tarlac. The mountain range has an area of 30,000 hectares and a maximum elevation of 2,037 meters at Mt. Tapulao (Mt. High Peak). There are several peaks over 1,000 meters, including Mt. Dinampang and Mt. Iba. (Birdlife DataZone) It is part of the Zambales–Bataan Biogeographic Zone and is considered a center of mammalian endemism. (Heaney et al. 2011) The lowland evergreen rainforests harbor numerous timber and non–timber plants of economic and medicinal significance.

Mixed-type of governance of the remaining biodiversity is being piloted by NewCAPP in the following areas within the Mountain Range: (a) LGU-DENR co-management of Mt. Tapulao in Palauig, Zambales; (b) community-managed conservation area in Mangatarem, Pangasinan; and (c) Indigenous People-managed conservation area in Cabangan, Zambales.

Mt. Tapulao

The local people of Zambales call the Sumatran pine Pinus merkusii as ‚tapulao‛ which abounds on the slopes of Mt. Tapulao. The vegetation of Mt. Tapulao consists of several types: 'parang' grassland, logged-over and regenerating lowland dipterocarp forest, montane forest, mossy forest, and pine forest (Balete et al. 2008).

Of the nine species of native small mammals recorded by the Chicago Field Museum in 1999, a shrew rat Rhynchomys tapulao is endemic, and two species of forest mice, Apomys zambalensis and Apomys brownorum are newly-discovered endemic species found only on Mt. Tapulao. The findings indicate the species richness of the area and highlight the need to protect the remaining forest of Tapulao, which is continuously being threatened by extensive logging, timber poaching, settlements and mining. In order for the biodiversity of Mt. Tapulao to be protected in perpetuity, all habitat types, from disturbed and regenerating lowland forest to primary mossy forest, must be included in any protection program. (Balete et al. 2008) Currently, the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Palauig is actively pursuing eco-tourism activities in Mt. Tapulao in coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 3.

Forest of Mangatarem, Pangasinan

Within the Zambales Mountain Range is the Manleluag Spring Protected Landscape (MSPL) – a protected area declared through Presidential Proclamation 576 signed by President Arroyo on March 10, 2004. It covers an area of 2,900 ha and is a second growth forest resulting from reforestation activities in the 1960s to the 70s. MSPL is within the Forest of Mangatarem in Pangasinan. The Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) manages it. The LGU of Mangatarem and the PAMB are proposing to expand the area of the park to 4,240 ha to include all the remaining tropical rainforests extending up to the boundary with Zambales Province. (Plantilla 2009) Land conversion, encroachment; forest fires, illegal logging, charcoal making and kaingin farming threaten the forest of Mangatarem.

Cabangan, Zambales

The Municipality of Cabangan lies on the western side of Zambales Province. It has a total land area of 23,980 hectares. The Aytas on this part of Zambales Mountain Range has a 6,203 ha Ancestral Land Claim (CADC042) awarded to them by the DENR on March 8, 1996 pursuant to DENR-DAO No. 2, s.1993. With the enactment of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, it recognizes the rights of the Indigenous Peoples to their ancestral domain/land claims. Pursuant to this Act, the Aytas were ecstatic to have their CADC to be converted into a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title. (PDI-NCIP undated)

However, mining exploration and operations in the ancestral domain of the Ayta in Cabangan causes irreparable ecological destruction, social conflicts and undermine the rights of indigenous communities to their land and life. Based on the 2009 Local Governance Performance Management System (LGPMS) of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for Cabangan, the per capita is extremely low and poverty incidence is high; forest cover is degraded; mangrove loss is high; and the potential to increase agricultural produce is weak. DILG recommends the importance of connecting and equally improving the services of these sectors: social, economic and environment, to achieve a balanced and sustained development for Cabangan.

In order to address the threats to biodiversity and the ancestral homes of the Aytas in the pilot areas within the Zambales Mountain Range, the NewCAP Project is working closely with the Haribon Foundation, Koalisyon ng Katutubong Samahan ng Pilipinas (KASAPI), LGUs, Indigenous Peoples and the DENR Regions 1 and 3 to support and strengthen the mixed-type of governance in this Key Biodiversity Area.


Balete, D.S., et al., Diversity patterns of small mammals in the Zambales Mts., Luzon, Philippines. Mammalian Biology. (2008), doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2008.05.006

Heaney et al., Seven New Species and a New Subgenus of Forest Mice (Rodentia: Muridae: Apomys) from Luzon Island. Fieldiana Life and Earth Sciences, Number 2:1-60. May 20, 2011.

Status Report on the Delineation and Conversion of CADC 042 to CADT, Sitio Maporac, New San Juan, Cabangan. Zambales Project Development Institute in cooperation with National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Zambales downloaded from

The Manila Times, Nature for Life Column of Anabelle Plantilla, August 8, 2009.