From Luzon to Mindanao the Philippine Eagle will be highlighted by various NGOs and conservation efforts from June 4-10 for Philippine Eagle Week. Which is fitting because it was almost a year ago when my team and I trekked the ridges and valleys of Mt. Mingan in search for Philippine Eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi). Traversing the steep slopes and narrow paths of the mountain while carrying fragile equipment such as 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 we were able to confirm the presence of a juvenile and a pair of adult Haring Ibon (King of Birds or Philippine Eagles) in the Mingan Mountains.
Not a moment was wasted to protect Philippine Eagles after their discovery in Mt. Mingan. The municipal local governments surrounding Mt. Mingan 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 Philippine Eagles.
Flash-forward to 2015, the plans developed 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 Critical Habitats for the protection of Philippine Eagles. Gabaldon paved the way by issuing an ordinance declaring 19,000 hectares of forests as a Critical Habitat 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 Philippine Eagles, forests and biodiversity and instilling a sense of responsibility to protect our natural resources. Perhaps we can begin doing so this Philippine Week, June 4-10, and beyond.
Learn more about the Philippine Eagles of Mt. Mingan by liking and sharing our HARI NG MT. MINGAN infographics on our Facebook page: Facebook.com/GoHaribon, or email J Kahlil Panopio at [email protected]