Working with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Conservation International (CI), Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed a decree expanding Peablanca from 4,136 hectares to more than 118,000 hectares. The decree connects Peablanca to the Northern Sierra Madre National Park, creating a seamless protected area larger than Switzerland that stretches 476,588 hectares (1.2 million acres).
The combined reserves are home to 28 Threatened vertebrate species including three considered Critically Endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN): the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), the Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) and the Northern Luzon Shrew Rat (Crunomys fallax).
"The government's decision to expand Peablanca safeguards a vast array of spectacular animals and some of the last vestiges of the Philippines' old-growth forests," said CI-Philippines Director Romeo Trono. "Peablanca is an area that has been under pressure by illegal logging and wildlife hunting for years, but now we have the legal framework and landscape connectivity required to more effectively protect this region."
Peablanca sits on the northeastern coast of Luzon, one of the nation's main islands. It encompasses the Callao Cave complex a popular destination for national tourists and stretches eastward, to cover both flanks of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. It also protects a stretch of unique coastal and marine ecosystems, rich in endangered species like whale sharks, giant clams and sea turtles.