“The dwindling population of Philippine Eagles means we are still failing at protecting our forests.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) said the death of the Philippine eagle Pamana exposed government’s “low priority” in protecting the country’s endangered species and forests.
Pamana, a three-year old female Philippine Eagle (pithecophaga jefferyi) was found decomposing with a bullet wound in the chest on Aug. 16 in Mt. Hamiguitan, Davao Oriental, two months after it was released into the wild. The eagle was released on June 12, after two years of rehabilitation by the Philippine Eagle Foundation, which rescued her in 2012, as an eaglet found with two bullet wounds.
“The demise of Pamana demonstrates how grossly incapable our government’s biodiversity conservation program is, and how lacking the environmental education is among local communities that should be the state’s primary partner in protecting our endangered Philippine Eagles and addressing wildlife poaching in Mt. Hamiguitan,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
The group decried the lack of funding and manpower in the implementation of laws meant to protect biodiversity, educate people and enjoin their participation, such as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, or Republic Act 9147, the Mt. Hamiguitan Range and Wildlife Sanctuary Act, or RA 9303, and the National Environmental Awareness and Education Act, or RA 9512.
Mt. Hamiguitan was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in June 2014.
“Despite the declaration as a world heritage site of Mt. Hamiguitan, the site where Pamana was released, we still do not have enough manpower to secure an area of such globally important status,” said Bautista.
Aside from poaching, Bautista said “the Aquino government continues to allow logging and mining concessions in the area.”
“While wildlife shooting has been a constant threat to 90 percent of the eagles released into the wild by the PEF, the worsening destruction of their habitat put them in this perpetually threatened state in the first place,” he said.
Bautista cited a 2010 report by the environmental network Panalipdan Mindanao which exposed that a Chinese mining firm, Philippine Youbang Mining Corporation (PhilYoubang), has a mining permit and an ongoing logging operation in the area.
“In Panalipdan’s report, Philyoubang’s operations have damaged second growth trees and other vegetation in Sitio Sopsopon, Macambol village, which is located between two protected areas – the Pujada Bay Protected Seascape and the Mt. Hamiguitan Range,” he said.
“Our forests are still fast disappearing due government policies and programs which allow ecologically destructive projects such as large-scale mining, commercial logging, and agri-industrial plantations. This brand of anti-environment policies, low prioritization of biodiversity conservation, and lack of enforcement have been hallmarks in the politics of the current Aquino administration,” Bautista said.
The Philippine Eagle, with its last population estimated at 400, are not only a national symbol but an ecologically important species, he added.
“Philippine Eagles are also important biological indicators of a forest’s health and growth, as a mating couple of eagles require at least 50 square kilometers of forest cover for their home range. The dwindling population of Philippine Eagles means we are still failing at protecting our forests,” Bautista said.
The PEF, thru social media, called for “support for stronger law enforcement in protecting wildlife and national heritage.” The group said there should be “greater, life-long efforts for education and public awareness campaigns.”