NONGOVERNMENT organizations and conservation efforts from Luzon to Visayas to Mindanao will be putting the spotlight on the Philippine Eagle as the country celebrates the Philippine Eagle Week from June 4 to10.
Last year, a team from Haribon led by the author who is a Philippine Eagle Researcher trekked the ridges and valleys of Mt. Mingan in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range in search of Philippine Eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi). Traversing the steep slopes and narrow paths of the mountain while carrying fragile equipment like binoculars, spotting scopes, DSLR cameras, and telephoto lenses on top of camping equipment and a week’s worth of food supplies was nothing short of an achievement in itself.
Though the journey was difficult, the challenging trek did pay off as the Haribon researchers confirmed the presence of a juvenile and a pair of adult Haring Ibon (King of Birds or Philippine Eagles) in the Mingan Mountains.
Protection of the Philippine Eagle has always been a priority. After the discovery in Mt. Mingan, the municipal governments surrounding the mountain namely Gabaldon, Dingalan and San Luis, with the help of the Haribon Foundation and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) developed plans for the conservation of the mountain range. One of the identified priority interventions to protect the forests of Mingan is its declaration as a Critical Habitat (CH) for the protection and conservation of the Haring Ibon.
Fast forward to 2015, the plans formed in the previous year are now coming to fruition. Social surveys are being conducted to learn more about Mt. Mingan’s biological and socio-economic importance to local communities surrounding it. Subsequently, field surveys are also scheduled to verify other reported Philippine Eagle sightings all over Mt. Mingan. The information that will be gathered through these surveys will be used to develop specific conservation measures for the Mingan Mountains.
Mt. Mingan is now on its way to becoming a network of CH’s for the protection of Philippine Eagles. Gabaldon paved the way by issuing an ordinance declaring 19,000 hectares of forests as a CH while Dingalan and San Luis are in the process of following suit. Key stakeholders from Mt. Mingan are scheduled to convene and discuss the formulation of their respective Critical Habitat Management Plans (CHMPs) and the training and deputation of Wildlife Enforcement Officers (WEO) for forest protection. These activities put Mt. Mingan ahead of other sites in conserving the Philippine Eagles of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range.
The conservation of Philippine Eagles does not stop at declaring Critical Habitats, producing plans and monitoring forests. The real challenge is educating people from all walks of life about the importance of the birds, forests and biodiversity and instilling a sense of responsibility to protect our natural resources.
Perhaps we can begin doing so this Philippine Eagle Week—and beyond.
Learn more about the Philippine Eagles of Mt. Mingan by liking and sharing the Hari ng Mt. Mingan infographics on our Facebook page: Facebook.com/GoHaribon. E-mail J. Kahlil Panopio at firstname.lastname@example.org.