As we celebrate the 23rd year of the Philippine Eagle Week, we are reminded that our national bird is a forest dependent species that requires vast forest covers for its survival and population growth. It is a story re-told too many times, depicting the current crisis that our national bird is constantly beset– the loss of their precious forest homes and illegal hunting/shooting of the species. It is also the story of hope of a critically endangered bird that awakens our hearts and make people realize how frail and fragile our environment has become. Against all these odds and to many heightened conservation consciousness for like-minded individuals, there is still hope for the eagles and the rest of our biodiversity.
Intrinsically linked to the extent of forest ecosystems along its natural range, the Philippine eagle is heavily dependent on a rich ecosystem and so is the survival of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) that thrive in these important habitats. Through the assistance of our IPs that serve as our “eyes and ears” in the forests, and as responsible stewards of the biodiverse ancestral domains where these birds are found, our collaborative conservation and protection programs for the species has demonstrated and proven that cohesive efforts particularly with local communities especially for the most critically endangered wild fauna such as our national bird, can help defy or prevent species extinction.
Henceforth, our advocacy on the adoption of the Indigenous Community Conserved Areas (ICCA)s has progressed with 15 ancestral domains now included in the world registry of ICCAs, many of which are important eagle habitats such as Mt. Manlaku in Bukidnon, Mt. Mahuson in Arakan, North Cotabato, and Mt. Dipaculao in Aurora Province. Fifteen (15) sites designated by Local Government Units (LGUs) as Local Conservation Areas (LCAs) are also Philippine eagle habitats such as the Luna Watershed in Apayao, Gabaldon Philippine eagle sanctuary in Nueva Ecija, and Mt. Nacolod in Leyte.
And as we joyfully commemorate once more the Philippine Eagle Week, we uphold the fundamental processes of these partnerships that we are all engaged in, to promote a strong advocacy towards protecting the Philippine eagle. Together with our brethren Katutubos, our ambitious targets on biodiversity are essential for us to continue our constructive engagements and collaborations, to acquire the knowledge essential for a science-based biodiversity management, and implement effective conservation measures.
Finally, the continuing story of the Philippine eagle evokes hope in each one of us. We shall soar more like our national bird, an icon of our environmental heritage, showcasing the outcome of our collective endeavors to preserve this heritage for generations to come.