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Protecting our resources and endangered species

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - March 3, 2021 - 12:00am

There has been a lot of news being churned out in every news cycle. It’s almost impossible to keep up without drowning in how COVID-19 is progressing, how many new cases have been logged, if the vaccines have arrived, and when the vaccination program will be in full swing around the country. Naturally, all of this news is going to keep us glued to our newspapers and internet browsers.

These are strange times we live in and everyone is on edge because no one can predict how the next few months, let alone years, will look. As we creep into March and mark the anniversary of the lockdown, we’re all wondering how and when life will start looking normal again. Granted in the past year many of us have grown accustomed to using masks, social distancing, and working from home whenever possible, it’s still not something we are hoping to do for years on end. With the vaccine, there is the hope of a light at the end of the tunnel – even though the tunnel is still very long.

In either case, with everyone focused on the pandemic and the vaccine, a lot of other things are currently falling by the wayside. While that is understandable, it’s also important to look at other aspects of life that should have our attention as well. After all, we don’t exist in a vacuum. While COVID has taken over a huge chunk of our world, there is still a lot left that we need to be responsible for to ensure that we still have a world to go back to once the vaccines do their work.

One of these things is giving the environment the care that it deserves. Climate change hasn’t stopped because of COVID and we are still seeing the impact of years of environmental degradation. Terrible typhoons and flooding remain a huge issue in the country and all over the world freak weather phenomenon happens so often it’s sometimes no longer considered “freaky.” The severe snowstorms that happened in Texas are just another example of weather gone awry.

This is something we have to continuously expect unless changes are made and soon. Another contributing factor to climate change, other than carbon emissions, is the continued destruction of natural resources. We know about that here in the country. We’ve seen huge chunks of forests mowed down and the loss of nature and natural habitats for so many ecosystems. We need to do better moving forward.

Protecting our natural resources and forests goes hand-in-hand with providing better protection for flora and fauna too. Just the other day, I read an article about Sarangani that was hopeful. Due to sightings of the endangered Philippine eagle in the rich biodiverse Dakeol Forest, conservationists and the local government declared the 3,000-hectare forest area as critical habitat and seeks to provide more protection for the area.

The eagle is thought to be the offspring of Sarangani Pride, a raptor released back into the wild in 2017. Seeing that it could potentially have offspring gives hope to rehabilitating the species in the protected area, and the town seeks to have the national government make a similar protection declaration. Having the Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR) issue an administrative order would allow and facilitate cooperation among relevant government agencies and local stakeholders in securing and managing the local ecosystem.

This would be a great step in saving a diverse and flourishing forest and providing a safe habitat for the many species of flowers and animals that call it home. Unregulated hunting, slash-and-burn farming, and other human activity have already threatened surrounding areas and we must put protections in place for what remains.

Knowing that there are potential Philippine eagle nesting sites in Dakeol is a huge bonus. We need to provide aid to our national bird for a long time and any move to give them more peace and protection will result in several environmental benefits. After all, not only does the majestic eagle represent the country, it also plays a hugely important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.

The Philippine eagle has been listed as critically endangered since 1994, with the country only roughly having 400 pairs left. Providing sanctuary and protection to these birds is an important step in ensuring they don’t die out and have a chance to boost their numbers in the wild.

Dakeol Forest is also the known home of another bird of prey, the Philippine serpent eagle, whose numbers are also decreasing. Securing better protection for the land will ensure they will remain safe and have a dedicated area in which to grow, hunt, and thrive.

I am glad the community is taking the necessary steps to care for their natural resources and the animals that call these forests home. These are, indeed, strange times we live in but that doesn’t excuse us from caring for our environment and making sure that we are doing all we can to protect the world we live in.

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