Sarangani officials want Mt. Busa declared a protected landscape

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 29 December) — Officials in Sarangani province are working to have Mt. Busa mountain range declared a protected landscape, following the recent rescue of a Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) there, the second in three years.

Lawyer Ryan Ramos, chief of staff of Sarangani lone district Rep. Ruel Pacquiao, said they have conducted talks with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to conserve Mt. Busa after a Philippine Eagle was rescued two weeks ago along a portion of the Celebes Sea in Maasim town.

Mt. Busa consists of 114,000 hectares covering the municipalities of Kiamba, Maitum and parts of Maasim.

CAPTION:Workers from the Philippine Eagle Foundation, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Sarangani provincial government pose with the Philippine eagle rescued on December 13, 2019 at the portion of Celebes Sea in Maasim, Sarangani. (Photo courtesy of Sarangani Information Office)

“We want Mt. Busa placed under the ENIPAS (Expanded National Protected Areas System) to protect the Philippine eagles and their habitat,” Ramos said in a statement.

Alejandra Sison, municipal environment and natural resources officer of Maasim, said members of the Kamal family retrieved from the Celebes Sea, about 100 meters from the shoreline, the 5.2-kilo Philippine eagle on December 13.

The eagle was observed to be flying around fishing boats in the area for three days before it was rescued, Sison said.

Dr. Jayson Ybanez, research and conservation director of the Davao City-based Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), said the closest possible habitat of the rescued eagle, believed to be a female, is Mt. Busa.

The bird was brought to the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao City for safekeeping and rehabilitation.

Ali Kamal, 75, a resident of Sitio Dampilan said the bird was spotted staying at fishing boats until it was rescued at sea when it was unable to fly out.

The presence of the Philippine eagle in Sarangani basically shows that “its forest is still pristine and healthy and is worth conserving,” according to PEF.

Cornelio Ramirez Jr., executive director of the province’s Environmental Conservation and Protection Center, said land conversion (to farmland), kaingin (slash-and-burn), wildlife hunting, illegal logging and mining have been threatening Mt. Busa, hence the need to declare it a protected landscape.

On January 2, 2017, a Philippine eagle was also found in Barangay Batian, Maitum, which is within the Mt. Busa complex, a declared key biodiversity area in the province.

The rescued eagle, which was rushed to the Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos, Calinan, was severely dehydrated, overly thin and with an embedded pellet from a wound that had healed.

The rehabilitated juvenile Philippine Eagle was freed on January 31, 2017 in Sitio Lahac in the border of barangays Upo and Tuanadatu, Maitum. It was named ‘Sarangani Pride’ by Senator Manny Pacquiao.

The Philippine eagle is classified as a critically endangered species under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)