THE Davao City Government supported the call of the environmental groups for the cancellation of the cutting permit issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to chop off the century-old trees in Mounts Makabol-Alikoson Conservation Area (MMACA) in Barangay Salaysay, Marilog District that is considered "an ancient nesting site" of the Philippine eagle.

In a letter to DENR-Davao Director Bagani Fidel Evasco dated December 7, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said the City Government supports the appeal of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) and the Sustainable Davao Movement (SDM) to cancel the timber cutting permit issued by DENR in favor of a certain Ling Ling Wu Lee in Sitio Falcata.

"Please be informed that the City Government of Davao fully supports the request of both organizations, as the 121 trees covered by said permit are within the Mts. Makabol-Alikoson Conservation Area, which under Section 8 of the 2007 Watershed Code of Davao City, is identified as an Environmentally Critical Area (ECA)," Duterte-Carpio said in the letter.

The mayor said MMACA, as a biodiversity area, “is home to various vulnerable species of birds and other wildlife endemic to Mindanao.”

She also said the area is a nesting site of the Philippine eagle, a national bird and a critically endangered species, which PEF and other organizations have been protecting for many years.

MMACA's forest area, also a watershed area, "replenishes the aquifers of the Suawan-Kulafu-Sub-Watershed within the Davao City River Basin."

"Furthermore, as a carbon sink, the area is a significant contributing factor in the mitigation of climate change," she said.

"It is for these reasons that we express support for the efforts of the aforementioned organizations and we hope that your office may look into said matter for we believe that the protection of our natural resources is our mutual concern," Duterte-Carpio added.

The letter was posted by Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (Idis) on their Facebook page.

Prior to the letter, Duterte-Carpio already expressed her support in a radio interview Monday, December 6.

But contrary to the group's appeal, the city has no authority to revoke DENR's issued permit.

"That's not how it works. It's only DENR who can withdraw the permit that they issued," she said in an interview on 87.5 FM Davao City Disaster Radio.

Envigroups rejoice

In a joint statement by Idis, PEF, and SDM, they lauded the mayor for supporting their cause.

"We are glad that the City Government of Davao, through Mayor Sara Duterte, give their full support to prevent the cutting of these ecologically and culturally significant native trees in MMACA," the environmental groups said.

They also said the "strong position" of the city government "highlights the significant role of local government units in conservation efforts and the promotion of Local Autonomy, especially the management of its natural resources."

The group urged the public to protect the city's watershed and the nesting ground of the Philippine eagle.

"Indeed, we need to protect our watershed for the present and future Dabawenyos and, we need to conserve the nesting ground of our critically endangered Philippine Eagle," the groups said.

"As Philippine Eagle symbolizes not only the pride of Davao or the Country, it also symbolizes the aspirations and efforts of all organizations and communities working towards its protection," they added.

A week before, the group launched a signature campaign calling DENR to forfeit the cutting permit.

According to the group, the said campaign has reached nearly 5,000 signatures as of writing.

Meanwhile, Evasco said in an ambush interview on Tuesday, December 7, that he has not yet personally communicated with the petitioners and other stakeholders.

But he said that he already sought assistance from the local government unit and other agencies and non-government groups on weighing in the matter.

“Kung katong gi-approve nako nga cutting permit, ipa-stop nako to. Nakuan naman gud siya naabot na siya sal (Those permits that I issued, I may have stop it, since the matter has already reached) national level,” he said.

The DENR official admitted their office was not aware of the “metes and bounds” of the MMACA.

“Kami man gud, wala pud mi kabalo sa (On our part, we weren’t aware) of the metes and bounds sa maong (of the said) conservation area. Na-approve siya sa (It was approved by the) [Watershed Management] Council without us knowing,” Evasco said.

He also expressed his disappointment on the matter.

“Ang nigawas man gud, ako ang kalaban ninyo (It turned out that I looked like the villain in this issue), wherein, in fact, we are just following our laws,” the official said.

Evasco, right after the interview, met with residents and landowners in Salaysay to discuss the matter.