Mount Mingan is now just a signature away from being declared as a Critical Habitat for the Philippine Eagle. Located in Central Luzon, this portion of the Sierra Madre mountain range will be the first CH in Central Sierra Madre once President Rodrigo Duterte signs the legislation.
After nearly three years after it was passed on the third reading in Congress, the ordinance that establishes the 8,227 hectares of forest land in Gabaldon as an area for conservation and wildlife protection (aka Critical Habitat) moves closer to its passage as law as a result of community negotiations.
In 2014, environmental group Haribon Foundation confirmed in an expedition the sightings of an adult pair and a juvenile Philippine Eagle in the Mingan mountains. Since then, consultations with stakeholders have been done to develop sustainable solutions that will protect the home of Philippine Eagles in Luzon.
Working with communities
Ten target barangays comprised of Pinamalisan, Cuyapa, Sawmill, South Poblacion, North Poblacion, Macasandal, Malinao, Ligaya, Pantoc and Tagumpay participated in the community dialogue in January and February 2017 to map Critical Habitat areas and discuss action plans.
Led by the Haribon Foundation, the community consultation co-facilitated by representatives from different local agencies and village groups aimed to gather communities and facilitate a dialogue with key actors in the local government.
The participants, composed of village leaders, forest wardens (Bantay Gubat) and community members joined forces to come up with sustainability programs including forest protection law enforcement, forest restoration using native species, biodiversity-friendly livelihood for forest-dependent families and consistent community engagement.
During the discussion, citizens lamented the lack of strong law enforcement and rampant illegal forest activities. For the past three years, Gabaldon has been prone to landslides and flashfloods. Non-stop deforestation has brought dry spells and has aggravated extreme weather effects.
“We owe to the mountains our very source of survival – our steady supply of clean water and fresh air,” said Noel Resurreccion, Haribon project manager. “By protecting Mt. Mingan, we are also protecting the future of Gabaldon and its people.”
To date, all 10 barangays situated around the mountain range have pledged their support to prioritize the protection and restoration of the Mingan mountains. Each barangay committed to set aside funds for tree nurseries from the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) or the share of revenues from the Philippine government.
The participating communities also concurred on having their own bantay gubat (forest warden) in their barangays. Dado Pagaragan, president of the senior citizen’s group in Barangay Ligaya told Haribon, “We hope that the government will provide an alternative livelihood to the forest-dependent families. This will greatly help in resolving our illegal forest activity problems.”
“I have never had this kind of community dialogue where I got to understand the different programs of our local government and how we can take action together. Thank you for hearing us out,” Pagaragan added.
“Consultation with communities is key to our conservation work,” said Resurreccion. “We believe that communities are the primary bearers of information about development issues. With proper guidance and enhanced capacities, they become better stewards of their unique resources.”
SAM MANALASTAS/HARIBON FOUNDATION