SEVERAL environment groups in Davao City are urging Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio to revoke the permit allowing the cutting of century-old trees in Mounts Makabol-Alikoson Conservation Area (MMACA) in Barangay Salaysay, Marilog District, which is considered "an ancient nesting site" of the Philippine eagle.

Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (Idis), Ecoteneo, Save Macabol Forest and Watershed, Students' Environmental Alliance of Davao, and Philippine Eagle Foundation, spearheaded the signature campaign.

The groups are calling the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Davao Region (DENR-Davao) for the cancellation of a timber permit issued to cut down the 121-year-old within the MMCA.

The petition aims to affirm the area's designation as an "environmentally critical area" under the Davao City Watershed Management Code, in accordance with Ordinance No. 0310-07, and also "improve MMACA's protection as a conservation area."

The petition launched via change.org has 1,000 supporters as of December 2.

Executive Director Mark Peñalver told SunStar Davao that they are lobbying their petition to the mayor, who has been vocal about proponents of infrastructure developments looking into other solutions where they do not have to cut the trees.

Duterte-Carpio backed in November 2020 the environmental groups’ call in sparing the eight trees planted along the sidewalk of Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) Grade school/High school Matina campus from being chopped off to give way for the proposed construction of the Matina Flyover. The project, however, was terminated early this year in response to the opposition.

The incident had also led to the crafting of the Heritage Tree Ordinance, which aims to protect all heritage trees and other trees in the urban area of the city. The ordinance was passed on third and final reading on November 23 and is now waiting for the mayor’s signature for implementation.

Peñalver said MMACA could have been spared with the ordinance if it was enacted a long time ago.

"Ironic kaayo, ang Davao City, we pride ourselves nga naa diria ang Philippine eagle, ang icon sa city. Pero diria pud siya nahimong threatened ang ilahang habitat," he said.

(It is quite ironic here in Davao City where the Philippine eagle is an icon but at the same time, its habitat here is also being threatened.)

He also emphasized the group’s appeal to the mayor to protect the Philippine eagle, which is a symbol attributed to her as she runs for vice president in the 2022 elections.

“I hope na mag-take og stand si mayor in favor of conservation... which is to protect our icon nga Philippine eagle, which is mao ang ginadala ni mayor sa iyang candidacy (which has been attributed to her in her candidacy),” he added.

According to the petitioners, the MMACA is an 8,819-hectare "conservation area” that supports the livelihoods of over 6,000 residents of Barangay Salaysay in the uplands of Davao City.

The MMACA also overlaps with the ancestral domain of the Indigenous Obu Manuvu of the city.

The natural resources of the MMACA have also sustained the Indigenous Obu Manuvu ways of life and culture since time immemorial.

The area is also a nesting site of the critically endangered Philippine eagle.

The eagle couple’s first nest was recorded by the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) in 1986. The pair hatched and raised at least twelve young eagles in five nesting trees within MMACA since then.

However, based on Obu Manuvu oral history in Salaysay, Philippine Eagle (Banog in their language) has always existed in the area.

MMACA is also home to a few more threatened wildlife species, the petitioners said.

Other endangered wildlife species such as the Philippine Deer and Southern Rufous Hornbill.

The petition also said that MMACA's natural forests replenish the aquifers of Davao City’s Suawan-Kulafu-Sub-Watershed.

"This sub-watershed is within the Davao City River Basin. The area’s old-growth forest also feeds the Masawang River -- an over 10-kilometer waterway that joins the Davao River downstream. The same forest is also a carbon sink that mitigates global climate changes," it said.

Aside from MMACA, the group is also asking the City Government to revoke the DENR permit that allowed the landowners to legally log the Macabol Forest and Watershed, still in Barangay Salaysay.

Peñalver said the area is a titled property, which has long been titled for commercial purposes.

"Dugay na siya natitulohan. And now na-transfer siya recently sa another owner. Unya gusto niya maputol ang mga kahoy kay gusto niya mapakinabangan iyahang property," he said.

(Someone already owns the land and it has been transferred to another person. The new owner wants to cut the trees to develop the property.)

The residents, according to him, are not aware that the area is already titled.

While he acknowledged the property owner's right, the Idis head said they are lobbying for interventions without resulting in chopping off the centennial-old trees.

"Ang gina-suggest namo is co-conservation or co-management (We suggest co-conservation of co-management)," Peñalver said, adding that the area can be converted into an ecotourism area.

He said they are in a series of consultations with both the property owner, whom they said is "cooperative" in their dialogue, and to DENR-Davao.

Peñalver said their signature campaign will continue until DENR listens to their appeal.

SunStar Davao reached out to DENR-Davao for comments on the petition, but they have not responded as of Thursday.

The City Government has also not yet issued a statement in response to the matter.