How to conserve the Philippine eagle-A A +A
By Jun Ledesma
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
FOR shamelessly demanding $50,000 from Singapore to showcase the Philippine Eagle in its bird park, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje succeeded in losing not only the pittance but also the scrapping of a memorandum of agreement for a bilateral cooperation on ecological preservation with our world famous eagle as the focal subject.
The proposed MOA should have been signed during President Aquino's visit to the city state, but this, so the story goes, did not take place because Paje had demanded that the amount be insured first.
What is the impact of this mercenary posturing of DENR? Well, President Aquino lost face as Paje made us look like mendicants. The efforts to draw attention to our majestic but endangered Philippine eagle vanished and so with the opportunity to generate more assistance and support for the propagation of the species not only from Singapore but the millions of tourists that visit that country.
That is the more direct blow on our conservation efforts. Singapore could have played an accessory role in conserving and propagating the most magnificent eagle in the world. Despite its very small area, Singapore is a veritable show window of ecological balance and upkeep. For every inch of property the owner has to dedicate a portion for environment conservation. About three decades ago, they planted their boulevards with acacia trees which they sourced out from Davao.
Today, they have more acacia trees standing than we do because they value trees as part of their existence while we mow them down for firewood. They have more wild animals in the woods than we do and they earn millions of dollars in revenues from tourists who pay quite a sum to view them during day or night time.
Secretary Paje should have thought out of the box. He thought of the $50k "like the bird in the hand that's worth two in the woods. Meaning it's better to have a small real advantage than the possibility of a greater one".
This value judgment is extremely worrisome for it is not farfetched that because a trunk of lawaan tree can easily fetch money he will merrily issue permits to cut down lawaan every inch of the way. This simplistic approach, rather than conserving the remaining stand in the forest and propagating these to prevent massive erosion and depletion of soil fertility, is what preoccupies the mind of a simpleton.
But it is not only depriving the eagle conservation project a veritable sustainable source of funds, Paje also succeeded in stumping out the prospects of Davao City drawing in more tourists because of the curiosity. Ours is the natural habitat of the royal bird and of the world-famous Vanda Sanderana or Waling-Waling. In the slopes of Mt. Apo are rare plant species, among them the pygmy and giant carnivorous pitcher plants to name a few. Like the Philippine Eagle, many of these plant species faced extinction but thanks to plant enthusiasts they have discovered simple and inexpensive means to propagate them from seeds.
But even with conservation of exotic varieties of orchids, we pale to Singapore in comparison. They have what we have, but what distinguishes us from them is that we have a story to tell about how Waling-Waling was discovered for example and why every spectacular vanda hybrids found in botanical gardens and in the homes of orchidists have the indomitable strain of Waling-Waling.
Oh well, I am sure that Paje will not be able to appreciate that. I will not be surprised if he will come out with some outlandish proposal to just contract taxidermist to conserve and preserve the eagle.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 16, 2011.