Declaration of Sarangani forest as critical habitat for wildlife species pushed

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 3 Mar) – The Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR)-Region 12 and the municipal government of Maitum in Sarangani province are pushing for the declaration of a forest in the area as a critical habitat for wildlife species, including the Philippine Eagle.

Nixon Lomboy, deputy head of the DENR’s Community Environment and Natural Resources Office in Kiamba town, said the move was in line with their efforts to protect various critically-endangered bird, animal and forest species found in the upland village of Batian in Maitum.

He said they have launched a series of initiatives to facilitate such declaration over at least 3,000 hectares of forest land in the village.

Known as Dakeol forest, Lomboy said the area is home to several species like the red lauan, wild orchids, ferns, insects, bats, birds and monkeys, and the nesting site of the Philippine Eagle.

A juvenile Philippine Eagle was rescued on January 2, 2017 at a portion of Barangay Batian, which is part of the Mt. Busa complex.

Mt. Busa is a declared key biodiversity area and an important bird area, and home to critically endangered, threatened, vulnerable and rare bird species.

Lomboy said they met with the village residents and other stakeholders last week to seek their full commitment for the declaration of Dakeol forest as a critical habitat.

Among the issues raised during the meeting was the possible allocation of allowances for volunteer forest guards, he said.

“We presented key environment and wildlife laws to raise awareness and encourage residents to act responsibly,” he said in a statement.

Elizabeth Ramos, chairperson of the Maitum Advocates for Sustainable Environment, said they are fully supporting the move, noting that it will also benefit local residents.

She specifically cited T’boli tribal communities in Barangay Batian that mainly depend on sugarcane, upland rice farming and backyard hog raising as livelihood.

Ramos said additional livelihood programs will be implemented in the area to address the basic needs of residents.

“We are partners in the protection of Dakeol,” she said.

Lomboy said the agency will conduct a profiling of the area’s flora and fauna resources in the coming months as part of the second phase of the activity.

He added that they are targeting the inclusion of Dakeol forest in the list of critical habitat areas by 2021 through a department administrative order. (MindaNews)