Quezon City, Philippines – The result of the recent validation process conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 8 in Homonhon Island has prompted the agency to recommend that all of Homonhon Island be declared as Critical Habitat and not only the initial three proposed barangays.
“We recommended to declare the island as “critical habitat” as soon as possible to preserve and protect Homonhon’s critically endangered species like the Philippine Cockatoo, locally known as abukay, and other vulnerable species, including other fauna which were also recorded in the area,” said DENR Region 8 during a dialogue with PMPI.
The proposal stems from the result of the actual validation process conducted by DENR Region 8 in partnership with PENRO Guiuan and PMPI where the team actually spotted cockatoo and recorded six of its kind in Barangay Inapulangan alone. Likewise, other decreasing and endemic species to the island were also recorded by the agency, like the Visayan Tarictic Hornbill, Hooded Pitta, Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike, Yellowish bulbul, Guaiabero, and a mammal species of Golden Capped Fruit bat.
In 2017, the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) and Visayas State University (VSU) carried out a flora and fauna assessment in the island of Homonhon, Guiuan in Eastern Samar, where they found the critically endangered bird, the cockatoo, and several threatened species of fauna and flora.
The team of PMPI and VSU then informed the residents of these precious species which gave a strong resolve to three barangays namely Inapulangan, Bitaugan, and Habag to protect the said species. The residents from three barangays of Homonhon have gathered signatures and submitted their petition to their respective barangay leaders to create local ordinance that will declare these three contiguous barangays as critical habitat. They also lobbied to the municipality council and the DENR to declare the same.
The DENR Region 8 responded to the clamor of the community. Thus, headed by Technical Support Specialist, Donato C. Fernandez; Development Management Officer I, Virginio C. Cugtas III; DMO II Conrado M. Horado; and Global Information System Specialist, Roberto I. Miano, conducted a population count and conservation initiative to identify and verify the sightings of the Philippine Cockatoo, a species which is endemic to the Philippines, and in the island of Homonhon.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the DENR DAO 2004-15 identified the Philippines Cockatoo as critically endangered species. The identification is the highest risk category that can be assigned to species in the IUCN Red List.
PMPI is concerned that the Philippine Cockatoo may perish if the island is not declared as Critical Habitat the soonest.
“We are happy that the DENR Region 8 proposes more than what the community has requested. To declare all of Homonhon as critical habitat and not only the three barangays will indeed protect that bird and other species living in the whole of the island ecosystem. The effort to declare should be urgent since the island is now under threat from different mining activities, both operating and applying for FTAAs,” Fr. Juderick Calumpiano, PMPI Co-Convenor for Visayas and Social Action Director of Diocese of Borongan said.