The protection and conservation of caves is mandated under Republic Act 9072 passed on April 08, 2001 otherwise known as the “National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act”. Under this Act, the DENR is tasked to formulate, develop and implement a national program for the management, protection and conservation of caves and cave resources, with the cave coordinating agencies, the National Museum, National Historical Institute, the Department of Tourism and Local Government Units concerned. Caves are considered natural, and non-renewable resources with important scientific, economic, educational, cultural, historical, and aesthetic values. They are also home to specialized mineral formations with unique and diverse flora and fauna.
As of today, over 1,500 caves have been recorded since the start of the implementation of the Caves Management and Conservation Program in 1994, with still a significant number of caves yet to be discovered and mapped. Of these, Regions 7 and 5 reported the most number of caves, that is, a total of 327 and 211, respectively. To date, a total of 76 caves were classified by the DENR field offices in accordance with DENR Memorandum Circular 2007-04 or Guidelines in Cave Classification.
The Philippines has its fair share of some of the exotic and majestic caves in the world. Sagada, in Mt. Province is truly enchanting and worth every spelunker’s visit because its caves are so deep that local folks believe that they extend down to the ends of the earth with its rich lime formation and ancestral burial sites. The famous Callao Cave in Tuguegarao boast of its chapel of stalagmite and stalactite arches created like a European gothic church complete with stone altar and a natural skylight. In Palawan, the St. Paul Subterranean River in Puerto Princesa has its caves explored through the underground river. Its spectacular limestone formation has been listed under the World Heritage list. The Tabon Cave is where the fossilized human remains were excavated along with the other artifacts that are believed to have existed during the Ice Age.
Despite their diversity and significance, most of the country’s caves, however, are in danger due to increased demand for recreational sites, vandalism, treasure hunting, mining, pollution, illegal collection of cave resources and rapid urbanization.
For CY 2010 and onwards and, in line with the DENR’s priority program, more caves be explored responsively, assessed and classified in terms of its diversity, significance and vulnerability. Participatory management planning for assessed and classified caves are also programmed for priority caves.