In celebration of the 23rd year of the Philippine Eagle Week (PEW), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu acknowledged the role that Indigenous Peoples (IPs) play as stewards of the forests especially our national bird, the critically endangered Philippine eagle that maintains the ecological balance of the country's vast forests.

"The Philippine eagle's presence in the forests is intrinsically connected to the web of life, in the lives of our brethren katutubos and resonates in their everyday lives, deeming the eagle sacred and providing utmost protection from harm. For it is through these indigenous practices, we are able to learn from their culture and beliefs and understand how wildlife and humans can co-exist harmoniously," Cimatu said during the celebration on June 4.

The event was organized by the DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) in partnership with the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), Haribon Foundation, and the University of the Philippines-Diliman, Institute of Biology.

"There is no opportune time to learn how to take care of our fragile environment, especially during this pandemic than now. Cimatu further added, “what better way to learn of these stories through local stewards who serve as our eyes and ears in the forests".

The theme of this year's celebration, "The Philippine Eagle and Indigenous Peoples: Protecting our forests, protecting our future," highlights the vital role of IPs in protecting the eagles’ forest homes and especially the most endangered wild fauna, such as the Philippine eagle.

During the event, various IP communities—together with the DENR regional and field offices, PEF, and local government units—shared their inspirational stories of Philippine eagle rescues, rehabilitation, and releases.

Hailed as "Local Biodiversity Champions," five IP communities, which include the Manuvu Tinonanon of Arakan, North Cotabato; Bukidnon (Higaonon) of Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon; Samahan ng Bantay Kalikasan sa Lupaing Ninuno (SBKALN); Indigenous Mandaya of Pantuyan, Caraga; Obu Manuvu of Davao City; and the Bagobo Tagabawa in Mt. Apo, Davao City, presented their own stories of hope, success, and goodwill.

Also, a new partner in conservation, the Philippine Fauna Art Society (PhilFAS) through its founder Ms. Bing Famoso presented a virtual art exhibit, "Haring Agila: An Online Art Exhibition," which will be live streamed via their Facebook page will run until the end of the PEW on June 10, 2021.

For his part, DENR Undersecretary for Special Concerns and concurrent DENR-BMB Director Edilberto DC Leonardo said that the Philippine Eagle Week "reminds us that conservation of wildlife is every Filipino’s duty, and that this fragile world is not ours alone."

“As this magnificent bird of prey continues to uphold the ecological balance of our forests, we reach out to every Filipino to adopt a culture of respect for all life forms, most especially for our national bird," Leonardo said.

The PEW is observed from June 4 to 10 of every calendar year by virtue of Proclamation No. 79. This declaration hopes to promote awareness on the importance of the Philippine eagle as a biological indicator of our forest ecosystems, a national symbol and a truly unique heritage.

Known as the largest of the extant eagles in the world in terms of length and wing surface, the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is currently classified as a "critically endangered" raptor in the Updated National List of Philippine Threatened Fauna or the DENR Administrative Order 2019-09) and by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature or IUCN.

The wild population of the species throughout the archipelago remains precarious at approximately 400 pairs. Hunting and loss of forest habitats remain the primary threats to birds’ survival. ###