Hundred Islands, Macclesfield, and Palawan

Giant clams and an underground river

I. Map boundaries: 10 to 20 degrees North; 112 to 120 degrees East

II. Countries: Paracel Islands and Macclesfield Bank (occupied by China), Philippines (Palawan, Pangasinan, and Zambales), and Spratley Islands (China, Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam occupy islands in this map area).

III. Overview

In the Lingayan Gulf off of the Philippine province of Pangasinan, fish and shrimp pens fill shallow tidal areas that once housed mangroves. Because mangroves can process fertilizers and nutrients, an integrated aquaculture could be developed that allows both mangroves and shrimp pens to coexist. Mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs bordering the 7150 Philippine islands contribute to the livelihood and well-being of coastal communities by supporting fish, shellfish, shrimp while providing coastal protecting, erosion control, and nutrient recycling. The Philippines has ‘greenbelt’ laws that require a mangrove strip of 50 to 100 m facing the open sea (Primavera 2005). On the west side of the same gulf is the Hundred Islands National Park, a scenic area with hundreds of small islands shaped like mushrooms. The area is noted for its giant clams, which are the subject of research at Bolinao Marine Laboratory. The gulf was the site of World War II battles.

On the west coast of Luzon Island, the coastline of the Zambales Province provides offshore islands noted for snorkeling. In the southeast corner of the map is Palawan Province which has unique rainforest flora and fauna. The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park was established as a result of a debt-for-nature swap and protects a rugged karst landscape. Endemic animals include a bearcat, mousedeer, parrots, hornbills, and pheasants. Palawan is also known for pristine beaches, reef diving in Honda Bay, and waterfall touring. To the north of the island, but still part of the province of Palawan, are the Calamian Islands, which are important areas for rare birds. The entire Philippine province of Palawan is managed as an international biosphere reserve.

The South China Sea is dotted with reefs of the Paracel and Spratley archipelagoes, as well as the more isolated Macclesfield Bank and Scarborough Shoal. The Paracel Islands are occupied by China, claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam, and consist of 30 islets. Macclesfield Bank is one of the largest atolls in the world and claimed by China, Taiwan, Philippines and Vietnam. Scarborough Shoal is claimed by China, Philippines, and Taiwan. Because of their strategic value, the individual Spratley islands are occupied by surrounding countries. On the map area, Itu Aba is occupied by Taiwan; Flat, Lankiam, Loaita, Nanshan, Northeast Cay, Thitu, and West York are occupied by the Philippines, and Sandy and Southwest Cay are occupied by Vietnam.


IV. Terrestrial Ecoregions

Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests of the Indo-Malayan Biome

IM 123, Luzon rain forests. These lowland evergreen dipterocarp rain forests grade to mangroves and Barrintonia trees near the coast. The forests are dry from November to April and wet from May to October. Flying fox bats are the largest bats in the world. There are 34 near-endemic birds and unique mammals such as the Philippine warty pig, Philippine brown deer, Malay civet, and common palm civet.

IM 143, Palawan rain forests. These lowland evergreen dipterocarp rain forests have a short one- to three-month dry season from November to May. Some forest areas are deciduous during this period. The St. Paul Mountains and El Nido areas are spectacular karst landscapes with cliffs and caves. The area is noted for endemic mammals including a bearded pig, tree squirrel and a rat. The Calamian deer is found only on the islands of Busuanga, Culion and Calauit. There are 20 restricted-range birds and 2,000 species of plants. Found in Palawan and the Calamian Islands.

IM 148, South China Sea Islands. The islands that are high enough support a tropical evergreen forest, although most have more limited vegetation. There is roughly a six-month wet and six-month dry season. The 600 coral reef islands of the Spratleys barely barely surface and are mostly devoid of vegetation but could support forest vegetation. Found in the Paracel and Spratley Islands.

V. Freshwater Ecoregions of the World

Southern Asia Region, Tropical and Subtropical Coastal Rivers

755. Northern Philippine Islands. Found in Pangasinan and Zambales.

756. Palawan-Busuanga-Mindoro. Found in Palawan.

VI. Marine Ecoregions of the World

Central Indo-Pacific Realm, South China Sea Province

112. Gulf of Tonkin. Found on continental shelf in northwest area of map.

114. South China Sea Oceanic Islands. Found around Macclesfield Bank, Paracel Islands, Scarborough Shoal, and Spratley Islands.

Central Indo-Pacific Realm, Western Coral Triangle Province

126. Palawan/North Borneo. Found along the coast of Palawan and Calamian Islands.

127. Found along the coast of Luzon and Cabra Island.

VII. World Heritage Site

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Palawan, Philippines. The limestone ridges around Mount St. Paul are a karst landscape with unusual rock formations and an 8.2-km long underground river. Large chambers in the cave are 120 m wide and 60 m high. The river emerges into the sea and is subject to tides. Unusual animals are Palawan tree shrew, Palawan porcupine, Palawan stink badger. Birds include blue-napped parrot, Tabon scrubfowl, hill myna, and Palawan hornbill. The area is managed by the city of Puerto Princesa. Terrestrial ecoregion IM 143 and marine ecoregion 126.

VIII. Biosphere Reserve

Palawan. The entire Philippine province of Palawan is included in the biosphere reserve. St. Paul Subterranean River, Malampaya Sound, El Nido-Tatay, Culion, Busuanga, and Calauit are shown on the map. Terrestrial ecoregion IM 143 and marine ecoregion 126.

IX. Other points of interest

Bolinao, Pangasinan, Philippines. Noted for its caves and waterfalls; home of the Bolinao Marine Laboratory. Ecoregion IM 123.

Busuanga Island, Palawan, Philippines. An Important Bird Area for blue headed racquet-tail, Palawan hornbill, and Philippine cockatoo. Mammals include Palawan stink-badger, Palawan tree shrew, Palawan flying fox, bearded pg, leopard cat, Palawan porcupine, and short-tailed mongoose. Ecoregion IM 143.

Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary, Palawan, Philippines. Noted or introduced African wildlife, this area lso harbors the Calamian deer, Palawan Pheasant peacock, balabac mousedeer and Palawan bear cat. It is an Important Bird Area for grey imperial-pigeon, blue-headed racquet-tail, Palawan hornbill and Chinese egret. Ecoregion IM 143.

Culion Island, Palawan. Once a leper colony, this is an Important Bird Area for Philippine cockatoo, blue-headed racquet-tail and Palawan hornbill. Mammals included the bearded pig and Calamian hog-deer. Ecoregion IM 143.

El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area, Palawan, Philippines. The Bacuit Archipelago contains rugged islands with limestone cliffs, beaches and mangroves, home of Malayan pangolin, dugong, and Palawan peacock-pheasant. Terrestrial ecoregion IM 143 and marine ecoregion 126.

Hundred Islands National Park, Pangasinan, Philippines. Managed by the City of Alaminos, this area is composed of 123 mushroom-shaped islands in Lingayan Gulf. It is one of the national geologic monuments of the Philippines with giant clams visible offshore. Noted for snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and birdwatching. Terrestrial ecoregion IM 123 and marine ecoregion 127.

Malampaya Sound Land and Seascape Protected Area, Palawan. This area contains habitat for the bottlenosed and Irrawady dolphin. Terrestrial ecoregion IM 143 and Marine ecoregion 126.

Zambales Mountains, Pangasinan and Zambales, Philippines. An Important Bird Area for flame-breasted fruit dove, spotted imperial-pigeon, green-faced parrotfinch, and furtive flycatcher. The old growth dipterocarp forest also has horseshoe bats and fruit bats. Hiking trips to Mount Tapulao can be arranged in Iba.

X. References

Abell, Robin and 27 others. 2008. Freshwater Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Biogeographic Units for Freshwater Biodiversity Conservation. Bioscience 58:403-414.

Alaminos City. Hundred Islands National Park. (accessed 1/15/11).

Bloom, Greg, Michael Grosberg, Virginia Jealous, and Piers Kelly. 2009. Philippines. Lonely Planet Publications.

Brown, Jackum, Kieran Fogarty and Jo Archer. 2007. Asia. In Emma Beare, ed. 2006. 501 Must-Visit Natural Wonders. Bounty Books (Palawan).

BirdLife International. 2011. BirdLife’s Online World Bird Database. Accessed January 14, 2010, at

Bolinao Marine Laboratory, Marine Sciences Institute, University of Philippines, Diliman. (accessed 1/17/11).

El Nido Municipal Tourism Office. 2010. (accessed 1/15/11).

Global (Accessed 1/15/11).

Olson, David M., et al., 2001. Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Life on Earth. BioScience 51:933-938.

Palawan Council on Sustainable Development. (accessed 11/13/10).

Pangasinan Travel Site. (accessed 1/15/11).

Primavera, Jurgenne H. 2005. Mangroves, Fishponds, and the Quest for Sustainability. Science 310:57-59.

Puerto Princesa Underground River. (accessed 1/16/11).

Riley, Laura and William. 2005. Nature’s Strongholds. Princeton University Press. (Palawan, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, El Nido, Caluit)

Spalding, Mark D. and 14 others. 2007. Marine Ecoregions of the World: A Bioregionalization of Coastal and Shelf Areas. Bioscience 57:573-583.

Walder, Rebecca, Jackum Brown and David Brown. Asia. In Emma Beare, ed. 2006. 501 Must-Visit Destinations. Bounty Books (Palawan)

World Heritage List. (accessed 11/6/10).

UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve Directory. (accessed 11/6/10).

Comments are closed.