Fighting for the Philippine Eagle

By Estanislao Albano, Jr.

“The long and short of what I am saying is that any future eagle dispersal under unchanged conditions will be in flagrant defiance of reason and common sense.”

Frankly, after crushing Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) Director for Research and Conservation Jayson Ibanez in a debate on the foundation’s eagle dispersal program back in 2016, I entertained this belief that I had heard the last eagle release because how at all could a respectable organization pursue a course of action that has been shown to be untenable and utterly idiotic in a public forum? Thus I was shocked when I learned last month that the PEF has not yet been weaned from the insanity. My intention now is to fight until the PEF drops the program completely. Part of the campaign is to write the companies which adopted the eagles in the custody of the PEF and likewise to the PEF Board of Trustees. Let me share with you the body of the letter to the Board of Trustees and likewise that of a letter dated March 15, 2016:
This is to update and reiterate my letter dated March 15, 2016 a copy of which is enclosed impressing upon the Board the utter folly of the Philippine Eagle Foundation’s (PEF) eagle dispersal program and how “any future eagle dispersal under unchanged conditions will be in flagrant defiance of reason and common sense.” I also alert the Board to my letter to the editor in the August 6, 2019 issue of the Philippine Star for its information. May I quote the last paragraph thereof: “The PEF and DENR should immediately stop eagle dispersal program until such time there are forests in the country declared safe for the birds by objective, competent and responsible authorities if ever such an occasion will come. The corporate sponsors of the eagles in the care of the PEF should also make it a condition that the bird not be released in any open space in the country until warranted. Until then, all recovered and bred Philippine Eagles should be kept at the PEC or loaned to foreign conservation entities because the reckless loss of the 10 is more than enough to prove that ironically, the PEF dispersal program is doing more harm than good to the efforts to preserve the critically endangered species and is tantamount to an act of sabotage.”
Far from it, I do not wish to be saying “I told you so” but in the event that another unfortunate incident will befall any of the eagles the PEF has released and will be releasing, I will not hesitate to tell the world that I have tried to reason with you via the newspapers and through letters to no avail.
I am sending herewith my letter to the editor in the Philippine Star likewise copies of all the six letters in the debate which transpired between PEF Director for Research and Conservation Jayson Ibañez and myself in the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2016 for the Board’s information on the arguments for and against the eagle dispersal program. May I point out that the debate ended when Ibañez failed to answer my fourth letter where I wrote that had the PEF been in charge of Noah’s Ark, the animals in the vessel would have been lost because unlike Noah who conducted practical tests to make sure the earth was habitable before freeing the animals, they would have released the animals without checking first “because of their burning conviction that freedom is the birthright of wild animals, a right that in no time should be tampered with.”
In fairness to Ibañez, he is not a pushover. His only fault is he lacks the common sense to see that the program has no leg to stand on whatsoever. Even a Grade 3 pupil could instantly see that getting two-thirds of the potential breeders killed before they could breed is certainly not the way to propagate animals. And all the more when the child learns that had the animals not been loosed in the open, they would still be alive and be breeding and that the particular species could only be found in the Philippines where it happens to be the national bird.
March 15, 2016
This is to bring to the attention of the Board two recent occurrences which prove that the Philippine Eagle Foundation’s (PEF) eagle dispersal program is the height of folly and in effect, the country had lost six PEF-released Philippine Eagles – five to gunshots and one to electrocution – due to plain stupidity.
First, as the attached copies of letters to the editor published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) would show, the program has no leg to stand on. PEF Director for Research and Conservation Jayson Ibanez has pathetically failed to defend it in a public forum. After his rejoinder (“In captivity, eagle’s potential killed,”/PDI, 2/10/16) which was long on lecture but short on logic and valid justifications, Ibanez had clammed up.
Second, the shooting of Matatag on February 21 happened in an area which Ibanez had boasted in his letter disproves my contention that the country has run out of expanses safe for wildlife.
In passing, regarding specific PEF eagle casualties, in the case of eagle Pamana, the stupidity of the PEF dispersal program has been compounded by the gross incompetence and negligence of PEF personnel. To debunk a published story which claimed that Pamana was freed in the wrong place, Ibanez wrote that contrary to the allegations of the source of the story that Mt. Hamiguitan is free of poachers, a recent biodiversity assessment conducted by PEF with the Department on Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed that poaching activities take place in many areas in the mountain range (“Commentary: Garbage In, Garbage Out: Misleading Speculations on Pamana’s Demise,” Mindanews, 9/3/15). How come the assessment was not made PRIOR TO the release and but AFTER the death of the bird is incomprehensible.
The birdbrained program shows that the PEF is so fixated with the idea that eagles should be where nature meant them to be regardless of prevailing conditions to the point they confuse realities with the wished for situation. It is very telling that in their appearance before the Senate after the shooting of Pamana, PEF representatives informed the senators that eagles are being killed due to poor enforcement of wildlife laws. So how come they earlier released 10 eagles as though the situation they are advocating for and which comes only after consistent and effective implementation of the laws had already existed?
The long and short of what I am saying is that any future eagle dispersal under unchanged conditions will be in flagrant defiance of reason and common sense.
Ibanez disputed my contention that a “captive eagle is better than a dead eagle” saying there’s a third fate awaiting PEF eagles claiming an unspecified number PEF-released eagles are safe in the wilds. With the shooting of Matatag bringing the failure-success ratio of PEF-released eagles to seven to three which shows how counter-productive the dispersal program is and Ibanez’ inability to defend the program, logically, that option is still shut for the moment. In the event the Board disagrees, please consider this letter a request for its justifications. **

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