BICOL REGIONAL PROFILE
Region 5 (Bicol Region) is best known for being the home of the world's largest fish - the butanding (whale shark) and the majestic Mayon Volcano. It also has the other beautiful natural features like mountains, waterfalls with lush vegetation, and beaches that have grown famous for water sports activities.
The region is located in the southermost tip of Luzon Island. It is bounded by Lamon Bay to the north, Pacific Ocean to the east, and Sibuyan Sea and Ragay Gulf to the west. The northernmost province, Camarines Norte, is bordered to the northby the province of Quezon, thereby connecting the region to the rest of Luzon.
The Bicol Region is composed of six (6) provinces: Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, and the island-provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate. It has one (1) independent component city - Naga City, and six (6) component cities: Iriga, Legazpi, Tabaco, Ligao, Masbate City, and Sorsogon City.
Per 2010 census, Region 5 has a total population of 5,109,798. The region's population density in 2010 was 299 persons per square kilometer.
LAND USE AND FORESTRY
The Bicol Region has a total land area of 1,763,250 hectares, of which 541,189 hectares are established as forestland and 1,238,091 hectares are alienable & disposable lands. Per 2011 Philippine Forestry Statistics, it has a total forest cover of 156,476 hectares.
As of 2011, a total of 83 Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) Agreements were signed by the DENR in the region involving 47,926 hectares of forestland, and benefitting 12,328 households and 83 people's organizations. The CBFM is agovernment strategy which "gives the management of forests back to the people." It offers long-term security of tenure to partner-communities and promotes an integrated approach to sustainable forest resource management.
The region also participated in the National Greening Program, a flagship program of President Benigno S. Aquino III which aims to reforest the entire Philippines within 2011-2016. In 2011 alone, Region 5 was able to rehabilitate 6,080 hectares of open and denuded lands by conducting massive tree planting activities involving its citizens, thereby expecting to increase the region's forest cover.
Bicol Region has a large amount of rich flat land, and agriculture is the largest component of the economy, followed by commercial fishing. Coconuts, abaca, banana, coffee and jackfruit are the top five permanent crops in the region. Rice and corn are among the chief seasonal crops. Mining is also one of the contributors to the region's economy.
Bicol Region is volvanic in origin and part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Volcanism is evident by the number of hot springs, crater lakes, and volcanoes that dot the region starting from Mount Labo in Camarines Norte to the Gate Mountains in Matnog, Sorsogon. Mayon Volcano is the most prominent of the volcanoes in the region, famous for its perfect conical shape and for being the most active in the country. Other volcanoes include Bulusan Volcano, Mount Isarog, Mount Iriga, Mount Malinao, Mount Masaraga, and the Pocdol Mountains.
The region is endowed with rich mineral resources, which include gold, copper, guano, rock phosphate, marble, silver, lead and manganese.
The Bicol Region is home to both the world's largest and smallest fishes.
Donsol, a fishing town in Sorsogon province, serves as a sanctuary to a group of 40 whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), which are considered as the largest fish in the world. Locally known as "butanding", whale sharks visit the waters of Donsol from November to May. They travel across the oceans but nowhere else have they been sighted in a larger group the in the waters of Sorsogon. They measure between 18 to 40 feet in length and weight about 20 tons.
Despite the enormous size and the popular misconceptions about all sharks being "man-eaters", this species does not pose any significant danger to humans. In fact, they are quite gentle and can be playful with divers. Divers and snorkellers can swim with this giant fish without any risk apart from unintentionally being hit by the shark's large tail fin.
The world's smallest commercial fish, sinarapan (Mistichthys luzonensis), can be found only in Lakes Bato and Buhi in Camarines Sur province. Sinarapan is a goby which grows to an average length of 1.25 centimeters, just slightly longer than the dwarf goby. Today, unabated fishing in teh two lakes threatens the population of sinarapan.
Another species endemic to the region is the Isarog shrew-mouse, which inhabits in Mt. Isarog, Camarines Sur.
The following sites in the region have been declared by law as protected areas and components of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS): the Malabungot Protected Landscape and Seascape (Garchitorena, Camarines Sur), Chico Island Wildlife Sanctuary (Cawayan, Masbate), Naro Island Wildlife Sanctuary (Cawayan, Masbate), Lagonoy Natural Biotic Area (Lagonoy, Camarines Sur), Abasig-Matogdon-Mananap Natural Biotic Area ( Camarines Norte), Bongsalay Natural Park (Batuan, Masbate), Mayon Volcano Natural Park (Albay), Bicol Natural Park (Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur), Bulusan Volcano Natural Park (Sorsogon), and Mt. Isarog Natural Park (Camarines Sur).
Six (6) Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Offices (PENROs) and eleven (11) Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices (CENROs) are serving the mandate of the DENR in Region 5. These are: PENROs Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Masbate, and Catanduanes; and CENROs Daet, Naga City, Iriga City, Goa, Sipocot, Legazpi City, Guinobatan, Sorsogon City, Mobo, San Jacinto, and Virac.