It is as if the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) had gone back in time to its early days in the late 1980s, when funds to bankroll its primary mission of saving the majestic Philippine Eagle and protecting what remains of the country’s forests were difficult to come by.
The raging COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be an effective time machine, as its widespread damage on the economy has constricted the flow of corporate donations sorely needed to implement PEF’s various programs, such as the breeding of the critically endangered Philippine Eagle and other birds of prey.
PEF executive director Dennis Salvador told the Inquirer in an interview that while there has been no outright withdrawals of pledged donations from both local and multinational corporations, a number have asked for more time to hand over their funds while others have reduced their commitments.
As a result of the belt-tightening measures that corporations have employed to conserve cash and keep their own core operations up and running, Salvador said overall collection of corporate sponsorships had been cut by a hefty 60 percent from last year.
And to add to PEF’s woes, quarantine measures that have prohibited entry to its 8.4-hectare Philippine Eagle Center at the foothills of Mount Apo in Malagos, Baguio District, Davao City—home to 31 Philippine Eagles—meant the loss of 40 percent of its operating revenues, which come from gate receipts from visitors eager to know more about the Philippine Eagle and to see them up close and personal.
The adverse impact of the sudden financial challenges of PEF, which is at the forefront of the conservation mission to save the Philippine Eagle from extinction and restore their denuded forest habitat, has been painful, indeed.
“This adversely impacts our logistics requirements, especially since we’ve been working on strengthening our biosafety protocols to protect the eagles against more emerging diseases,” Salvador said.
“Other impacts include letting go of some of our staff; reduced support and engagement of community-based forest guards; reduced ability and resources for rescuing Philippine Eagles,” he added.
Despite these daunting challenges caused by the pandemic, Salvador remained resolute, saying PEF would work with what it has and would not waver from its mission to save and protect the Philippine Eagle, a giant three-foot-tall bird of prey that can only be found in the Philippines and known the world over for being one of the rarest eagles with its unique blue-grey eyes, broad seven-foot wingspan and powerful talons that can easily cut through prey.
It is considered one of the largest and most powerful among forest raptors and listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature with an estimated number of just 400 pairs left in the wild.
Makilala-HirayaProviding PEF a shot in the arm are corporate partners such as the Energy Development Corp. (EDC). The PEF partnered with EDC recently to rehabilitate and eventually release a female Philippine Eagle named Makilala-Hiraya. She was rescued in June from being mobbed by a flock of crows in Barangay Kisante in Makilala, Cotabato, near the Mount Apo Natural Park where EDC operates.
Fortunately, no serious injuries were found on the bird and she was eventually released on July 28 with EDC pledging to help monitor Makilala-Hiraya for the next six months.
The PEF said securing her release and ensuring her safety in the wild was important so that she could find a mate, nest and contribute to the survival of the Philippine Eagle.
“Releasing this eagle is important in keeping the wild population thriving. Protecting the existing wild population is as significant as breeding the eagle in captivity to add new birds in our forests,” PEF director of research and conservation Jayson Ibanez said in a statement.
Protected reservationAt EDC’s 108-megawatt Mount Apo Geothermal Project (MAGP), watersheds are well-maintained and forests are lush. The 701-hectare protected geothermal reservation surrounding MAGP is home to 39 species of mammals and 165 species of birds, including the Philippine Eagle.
EDC has been partners with PEF for nearly two decades, and it adopted Geothermica in 2012, through PEF’s “Adopt-an-Eagle” program.
The protection of the iconic national bird remains a priority for the company’s biodiversity conservation and monitoring program. EDC accepted PEF’s proposal to release Makilala in a target site within its Mount Apo geothermal reservation, and committed to support monitoring activities that will ensure the bird reaches sexual maturity and has the chance to nest.
EDC employees even gave Makilala a second name, “Hiraya,” a Filipino word that translates to “fruit of one’s hopes, dreams and aspirations.”
EDC corporate social responsibility and public relations head Allan Barcena said: “EDC fully supports the protection and conservation of the Philippine Eagle. We continue to work with the Philippine Eagle Foundation and our local governments toward protecting them and their natural habitat by increasing and maintaining forest cover.”
As PEF always says, the fate of the eagles, the forests and Filipino children’s future are inextricably linked. Saving the Philippine Eagle thus means protecting the next generation of Filipinos.