Sunday, June 10, 2012

Eagles sighted, groups urge protection of Angat watershed biodiversity

MALOLOS CITY—Environmentalists demand better protection of the Angat Dam watershed as biodiversity hotspot after reports of sightings of Philippine Eagle in the area.

The call came after years of efforts to preserve the 63,000 hectare watershed which was focused on forest management for purposes of securing water supply for Metro Manila and power generation, but not on its rich biodiversity.

Brother Martin Francisco of the Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society (SSMES) said reported sightings of the Philippine eagle another compelling reason for the government to take a more serious program for the protection for the watershed.

“The Napocor used to claim that the Angat Watershed is the best kept watershed in Asia, maybe that’s the reason why Philippine eagles are sighted, they maybe looking for sanctuary,” Francisco said.

However, despite its status,  the National Power Corporation (Napocor) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) earlier estimated at about 20 percent of the watershed is deforested due to rampant timber poaching.

“The sighting of eagles within the watershed means more reason for its protection,’ said Francisco.

Danilo Sevilla, the vice president of the National Power Corporation (Napocor) disclosed on Monday the many reported sightings of the Philippine Eagle within the watershed.

The Napocor manages the 63,000 hectare watershed along with the 246-megawatt Angat River Hydro Electric Power Plant (Arhepp) located at Hilltop, Norzagaray town.

However, Sevilla said that they still have to confirm if the Philippine eagles sighted within the watershed are nesting.

Sevilla also said the watershed is home for native species of hardwood or dipterocarps and still undocumented rich flora and fauna.

He added that Angat watershed serves a the primary carbon sink of Metro Manila as it was able to siphoned an estimated 50-Million tons of carbon in the past years.

Emmanuel Umali, Napocor manager for the Angat Watershed said they are about to sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Haribon Foundation in order to conduct study for watershed bioviversity, including the Philippine eagle.

The same was echoed by Anabelle Fontillas of the Haribon Foundation who explained that they intend to validate anecdotal sightings on eagle population estimates.

She also said that the best way to protect the Philippine eagle is to preserved and conserve existing forests through broad support from stakeholders like local government units (LGUs) and schools.

For his part, Mendel Garcia, the head of the Angat Watershed Area Team (Awat) said that Napocor has also tried to work an agreement with the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF).

However, the said agreement didn’t work out for unknown reasons.(Dino Balabo)