A FAMILY of the critically endangered Philippine Eagles has recently been spotted in the forests of Lupon, Davao Oriental.

Official photographer of the Provincial Information Office, Eden Jhan Licayan, who took the photos and some video footage of the rare sightings, said he spotted a total of three Philippine Eagles during the four-day assessment of potential tourism sites in the area from December 7 to 10.

Licayan said he first spotted a young Philippine Eagle perched on a tree near its nest while emitting a powerful call. The following day, Licayan and his team were surprised to spot two more eagles flying over the forest canopy, which are much bigger than the first one they sighted.

Philippine Eagle Foundation Head for Research and Development, Dr. Jason Ibanez, confirmed that the sighted birds were indeed Philippine Eagles.

“The photos are indeed those of a Philippine Eagle. And based on the general appearance and nature of its feathers, the bird at perch is a juvenile (around one-year-old) Philippine Eagle,” he said.

“The presence of a juvenile means there are eagle parents and the photos of two flying eagles are possibly the eagle couple. An expedition next year to further document the eagle pair and their young is highly recommended,” he said.

Ibanez added that based on where the photos were taken, the eagle family is within the Mount Kampalili-Puting Bato Key Biodiversity Area of Davao Oriental, which is one of the few large habitats of Philippine Eagles in Mindanao.

Davao Oriental is known to host a good population of Philippine Eagles, including the rescued Mal’lambugok who was released in the municipality Caraga last September.

The Philippine Eagle Foundation hopes that the local government, together with the concerned stakeholders, will work together to heighten the locals’ awareness on the preservation of the health of the forests and the conservation of these majestic eagles.

Governor Nelson Dayanghirang assured that the provincial government and the local government of Lupon will implement programs to ensure that these incredible creatures are protected.

Conserving nature, preserving peace

Currently, the provincial government looks at eco-tourism as one of the means of preserving the natural resources and promoting the community’s stewardship and management of these highly valued resources while providing alternative livelihood for the locals, thus, promoting peace in the community.

With the presence of the Philippine Eagle in the area, as well as many other bird species, the provincial government sees the area’s potential for bird watching, which has both economic and conservation potential.

The recent conduct of tourism potential assessment in the area was part of the provincial government’s localized implementation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 or Whole-of-Nation Approach to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. Through the program, which aims to help uplift the lives of the people, development projects such as livelihood and infrastructures, among many other interventions, are being introduced in the communities, mostly in hinterland villages that are known to be vulnerable to armed conflict and formerly used as guerrilla-base of the Communist-Terrorist New People’s Army (NPA).

Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict Vice-Chairman Ednar Dayanghirang said the program will not only help people become more responsible for their forests but will also introduce economic opportunities to end the cycle of poverty. In the process, it also ends the NPA recruitment as the people will become more focused on their new livelihood and conservation efforts. (PR)