His campaign slogan “Change is coming” was the rallying call of his supporters during the campaign period. Now that he has been proclaimed as the 16th President of the Philippines, does Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte also have plans for his fellow Filipino, Mindanaoan, and Davaoeño, the Haring Ibon—the national bird of the Philippines?
The Philippine Eagle, known locally as the Haribon or the Haring Ibon (Bird King), was discovered on June 1896 in Bonga, Samar by English naturalist and zoological collector John Whitehead. A year later, Scottish ornithologist William Robert Ogilvie-Grant named it Pithecophaga jefferyi (jefferyi in honor of John Whitehead’s father, Jeffery Whitehead)
The Haring Ibon was discovered during the time when the Philippines was still lush with forests—there were 21 million hectares of forest in the 1900s, covering 70% of the country’s total land area. Unfortunately, the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Forest Management Bureau (DENR-FMB) estimates that, as of 2003, the remaining forest cover of the Philippines is now down to 7 million hectares.
As a pair of Haring Ibon needs at least 7000 hectares of forestlands to survive, the extent of forest loss since their discovery spells a bleak future for the magnificent raptor.
Haring Ibon under past administrations
The Haring Ibon caught international attention in 1965 when Dr. Dioscoro Rabor, a noted Filipino ornithologist, notified the international community of its endangered status. Multiple initiatives have since been done to prevent the extinction of the species.
In 1970, President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential Administrative Order No. 235 to protect the species by prohibiting the wounding, taking, selling, exchanging and or exporting, possessing and killing of the bird. He then issued Presidential Proclamation No. 1732 in 1978 officially changing the name of species from “monkey-eating eagle” to the Philippine Eagle for Filipinos to take pride in the Haring Ibon as an enigmatic species exclusive to the country.
To further highlight the Haring Ibon as a source of pride for Filipinos, President Fidel V. Ramos issued Presidential Proclamation No. 615 in 1995 effectively declaring the Philippine Eagle as the national bird of the Philippines. Under this proclamation, instructed DENR to establish sanctuaries for the species, promote the participation of local communities in management of Haring Ibon’s habitat, accelerate field research and monitoring activities for the species, and promote public awareness and education.
Recognizing the Haring Ibon’s grim conservation status despite its national and international recognition, President Joseph Ejercito Estrada issued Presidential Proclamation No. 79 in 1999 declaring June 4-10 of every year as Philippine Eagle week.
The proclamation was aimed to instill to Filipino people the importance of the Haring Ibon in forest ecosystems, as a unique heritage, and as a national symbol. The declaration also encourages government offices, civil society organizations and other stakeholders to implement activities focusing on the Haring Ibon and its habitat during the celebration of the Philippine Eagle Week.
In the same year, Estrada also issued Proclamation No. 155 effectively declaring 3,728.98 hectares of forest in the Municipality of Taft, Province of Eastern Samar as a Wildlife Sanctuary for the Philippine Eagle. Taft Forest Wildlife Sanctuary is the first wildlife sanctuary in the Philippines declared explicitly for the conservation of the Haring Ibon.
Perhaps the most significant legislature to protect and conserve the Haring Ibon and the country’s flora and fauna is the Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources and Conservation and Protection Act of 2001 passed under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration. The objectives of the Wildlife Act are to conserve and protect wildlife species and their habitats, regulate the collection and trade of wildlife, and to follow through with the Philippine’s commitment to the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity.
Davao City, Duterte, and the Haring Ibon
Next to the durian fruit, Haring Ibon could be an iconic symbol of Davao City. Photos of the Haring Ibon can be seen everywhere in Davao City—from airport, public transportations to business establishments. It is ingrained in Davao’s culture—giant eagle statues are all over the city—and in the minds of every Davaoeño so much so that it is most certainly no stranger to President Duterte.
After all, he has been the longest-serving mayor of Davao City for seven terms or an equivalent of 22 years and been credited for transforming Davao’s image of a crime-ridden city to one of the world’s safest cities.
Change came for Davao City, will it also come for the Haring Ibon now that Duterte is our president?
The presidential administrations described above supported the conservation of the Haring Ibon in various levels. The proclamations, administrative orders and laws passed under their administrations has helped the Haring Ibon to survive despite the continuous threats that are driving them to extinction.
For a start, President Duterte’s choice for DENR secretary, anti-mining advocate Gina Lopez, is a welcoming move to a more environment and Haring Ibon- friendly administration.
We hope that his administration and incoming DENR secretary Gina Lopez can do the same to change the fate of our national bird.