Landowner desists from cutting century-old trees in PH eagle nesting site

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 9 Dec) – A landowner in an area in Marilog District here known to be a nesting site of the endangered Philippine Eagle has desisted from cutting 121 trees amid growing criticisms from locals to spare the century-old trees within the 12.2-hectare property covered within the “conservation and environmental critical area.”

In a statement released on Thursday, Bagani Fidel A. Evasco, executive director of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Davao, said that the agency will release a suspension order to the Private Land Timber Permit (PLTP) issued to Ling-Ling Wu Lee last August 18, 2021.

But Evasco said that Lee voluntarily stopped in October the cutting of trees in Sitio Falcata, Macabol, Barangay Salaysay in Marilog.

Lee reportedly wanted to cut 22 Agoho, 4 Bagtikan, 15 Lauan, 44 Tanguile, and 36 Ulian trees with diameters ranging from 40 to 85 cm and an estimated harvestable volume of 131.06 cubic meters.

The owner applied for a permit to cut these trees to pave way for a land development project located within the Mounts Makabol-Alikoson Conservation Area (MMACA), classified as “environmentally critical area” under the Watershed Code of Davao City.

Evasco claimed that the agency was neither aware that the trees covered by the permit were nesting trees of the eagles, as claimed by the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), nor privy to the metes and bounds of the declared Conservation Area and Environmentally Critical Area (ECA) in Barangay Salaysay based on the Watershed Code.

The DENR-Davao, however, admitted that there is a nest site in Barangay Salaysay, Marilog District between Sitio Indaohong and Sitio Taupan, which is one of the confirmed eight Philippine eagle nest sites in the region.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mayor Sara Duterte threw support behind the calls of PEF and environmental group Sustainable Davao Movement to cancel the timber cutting permit.

“As a biodiversity area, the MMACA is home to various vulnerable species of birds and other wildlife endemic to Mindanao. It is also a nesting site of our national bird, the critically-endangered Philippine eagle, which the Philippine Eagle Foundation and other organizations have been continuously protecting for many years now,” she said.

Duterte added that as a watershed area, MMACA “replenishes the aquifers of the Suawan-Kulafu-Sub-Watershed within the Davao City River Basin,” and serves as carbon sink, which helps mitigate the effects of climate change.

Evasco claimed that the basis for the issuance of permit was the recommendation of the Provincial and Community Environment and Natural Resources Office based on “ground validation, assessment, timber inventory and thorough review on the application requirements,” and supported with clearances from concerned barangay and tribal councils and Environmental Compliance Certificate issued by Environmental Management Bureau-Davao.

He said that the “permit to cut naturally grown trees is subject to conditions that the permittee has to strictly comply with the tree replacement ratio of 1:100,” which means it will require the landowner to “plant 12,100 seedlings and a payment of forest charges for every cubic meter of timber harvested/utilized.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)