This aims to protect the Philippine Eagle and other endangered wildlife species in the area.
In a recent press conference, the organizations including the Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS), Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), Sustainable Davao Movement, Ecoteneo, Bantay Bukid, and community members of Brgy. Salaysay presented the wildlife and biodiversity profiling results to the public.
The groups said there were series of expeditions conducted last July and August 2022 to document the breeding status of the Philippine Eagle Pair as well as to assess the existence of other wildlife inhabitants in the area.
During the research studies, the team detected the eagle pair, the six-month-old eagle, and a new eagle nest. The eagles were active within a 500-meter radius of the nest tree at Mt. Makabol, specifically at the Panukuan area where a nest was located. The nesting site on the Balete tree is surrounded by three hamlets (Sitios), namely Taupan, Kabigbihisan, and Tribal.
The pair of Philippine eagles were frequently detected on six occasions. This is only 4.5% of the total observation hours allotted during the expedition, which means these are not dwellers but permanent residents in the area.
The University of the Philippines Mindanao research team also conducted their own study specifically on terrestrial wildlife assessment in the area.
One hundred nineteen terrestrial vertebrate species – 88 Birds, 16 Amphibians, 6 Reptiles, 5 Bats, and 4 Non-Volant Mammals were observed by the UP research team . Out of 119 terrestrial vertebrate species, the team recorded 39 species that are Philippine Endemics, and 23 species are only found in Mindanao. The majority of these species are considered critically endangered and threatened.
“Apart from the Philippine Eagle, there are other threatened endangered species that are about to be extinct and need to be protected. These indicators conform with the guidelines in declaring a Critical Habitat,” Dr. Jayson Ibañez, Research and Conservation Director of PEF, said during the press conference.
“We will turn over these results and formally propose to declare Mt.Makabol-Alikoson as a Critical Habitat to the Watershed Management Council and government authorities, especially DENR-11, by the end of the year. We need the support of the public”, Atty. Mark Peñalver Executive Director explained, discussing the next steps of the campaign.
Since researchers have found endemic, threatened, and critically endangered wildlife species in MMACA, environment groups hope that the Davao City Local Government Unit will take the lead in declaring the area as Critical Habitat following due processes of the Philippine Wildlife Act (RA9147) in coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 11.
Ibanez said the DENR issuance of a private land timber cutting permit has threatened endangered species in the area.
He said when the DENR in October 2021 approved private land timber cutting permits, the operators have started cutting trees, and they are doing this within the identified conservation zone and within the nesting site of the Philippine Eagle.
Eagles are very dependent on trees. They could not leave outside of the forest, according to Ibañez.
“This was witnessed by our Bantay Bukid or forest guards in Barangay Salaysay, where they reported to us. We help the community lobby for the stoppage of the logging because it is an important water source of the community,” he said.
Ibañez further said logging activities are happening just above in the community’s actual water source.
This triggered the movement, he said, to launch a signature campaign despite calls for the DENR to cancel the permit.
“What we are trying to do now is to facilitate the declaration of the area as a critical habitat, as another layer of protection. In fact protected na siya dapat kasi it has been declared by the city government through the Davao City watershed code as a conservation zone kaya walang logging dapat dyan, but despite that a permit was approved,” Ibañez said.
To have another layer of protection, the group is working with the city government and also with DENR to have declared the area as critical habitat.
“When you say critical habitat, these are protected areas intended to protect and conserve nesting sites, important breeding areas of wildlife,” he said.
Petalver, on the other hand said that although the land area is a private property and they also recognize the rights of the landowners, all activities here should be regulated as what the watershed code and land use plan stated.
“So cutting of trees is not allowed. This is one of the identified prohibited acts in the watershed code and land use plan,” he said.
The moment it will be declared as a critical habitat, Petalver hopes to come up with a win- win solution for the environment, landowners, and for the Philippine Eagles.
Makabol-Alikoson Forests is estimated to have 5,000 to 6,000 hectares.