Maitum declares Dakeol Forest, home to Philippine eagles, as critical habitat

MAITUM, Sarangani (MindaNews / 26 February) — The municipal government of Maitum, Sarangani has declared the Dakeol Forest, which spans 3,000 hectares of diverse flora and fauna, as a critical habitat to protect its rich biodiversity, officials said.

The municipal hall of Maitum, Sarangani on 24 February 2021. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

Mayor Alexander Bryan Reganit said the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) has designated Dakeol Forest in Barangay Batian as a critical habitat in line with Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.

“Dakeol Forest is home to our national bird, the mighty Philippine eagle, and other plant and animal species that need to be protected,” the official said.

Vice Mayor Tito Balazon, Sr., SB presiding officer, said the Dakeol Forest plays a vital role for the local environment, which prompted the local legislators to declare it as a critical habitat to ensure the safety of flora and fauna found in its environs.

According to Balazon, the Dakeol Forest serves as home to several species such as the red lauan, wild orchids, ferns, insects, bats, monkeys and birds, including the endangered Philippine eagle.

Balazon said the municipal council officially declared Dakeol Forest as a critical habitat in December, a copy of which was obtained by MindaNews this week.

The municipal government already endorsed to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) the declaration of Daekol Forest as a critical habitat.

The DENR needs to issue a Department Administrative Order (DAO) that will formally recognize Dakeol Forest as critical habitat.

As of this month, there are nine declared critical habitats across the country issued with a DENR-DAO, data from the agency showed.

In a statement, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the DAO will help the DENR work hand-in-hand with the local government, communities and other stakeholders involved in accomplishing the locally-driven ecosystems management approach.

Last November, DENR’s Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) stationed in nearby Kiamba town reported the sighting of a juvenile Philippine eagle in Sitio Angko, Barangay Batian.

An assessment by the Davao City-based Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) showed that the juvenile raptor was 10 months to a year old and believed to be the offspring of Sarangani Pride, a Philippine eagle that was rescued in Barangay Batian and released back to the wild in 2017.

Conservationists monitor the movements of Sarangani Pride through a harnessed solar-powered Global Positioning System-Global System for Mobile Communications or GPS-GSM transmitter.

Last month, another Philippine eagle was rescued in Maitum’s Barangay Ticulab after it was trapped in rattan vines after preying on a monkey.

Eaglet “Sarangani Pride” in Maitum, Sarangani. Photo courtesy of Edgardo Calderon of CENRO Kiamba for SARANGANI INFORMATION OFFICE

Edgar Calderon, team leader and park maintenance foreman of the CENRO-Kiamba, said that together with personnel from the PEF and the Maitum local government, they scoured Dakeol Forest last year to monitor the raptor’s nesting sites in the area.

Weighing as much as eight kilograms, the Philippine eagle is considered the top predator of the country’s tropical rainforest.

The eagle “plays an important role in keeping the ecosystem in balance and provides an umbrella of protection to all other life forms in its territory,” Jayson Ibañez, PEF research and conservation director, explained earlier.

Only an estimated 400 pairs of Philippine eagles remain in the wild, landing the raptor on the “critically endangered” list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Dakeol Forest is also home to Philippine serpent eagles (Spilornis holospilus), whose population trend is classified as “decreasing.” (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)