The slow and gradual formation that takes hundreds of years makes caves and cave resources worth protecting. In the Philippines, there are 1,756 identified caves, although experts believe there are still more that are yet to be discovered and explored.
Of the identified caves, 258 caves have already undergone detailed assessment by the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), with assistance from other institutions.
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.
Caves are unique, natural and non-renewable resources valued for their scientific, economic, educational, cultural, historical and aesthetic importance. They serve as key to biodiversity conservation because they provide habitat to many endangered animals. In the Philippines, a total of 44 species of bats, reptiles, birds and frogs have been recorded to dwell in caves.
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.