The Philippine Eagle.

TACLOBAN CITY, June 7 (PNA) -– The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is stepping up efforts to protect the critically endangered Philippine Eagle in three forest areas of Eastern Visayas.

Team from the DENR regional office revisited upland rural communities of Silago, Southern Leyte; Taft, Eastern Samar; and Burauen, Leyte this week to raise the awareness of locals on the important of protecting the country’s the National Bird.

“Over the years, our Philippine Eagle remains persecuted by hunters. If this remains unabated, no young eagles would be around to replace old or ageing eagle populations that will eventually lead to their extinction,” said DENR Eastern Visayas Regional Executive Director Leonardo Sibbaluca.

The repeat of awareness drive is part of this year’s observance of the 18th Philippine Eagle Week, on June 4 to 10, which aims to remind the public of the plight of National Bird.

The DENR has confirmed recent sightings of a pair of Philippine Eagle in Mt. Nacolod in Silago, high mountains in Burauen town near Mahagnao National Park and thick forest area within the Samar Island Natural Park in Taft.

“The Philippine Eagle’s presence in the forests denotes a rich forest ecosystem, one that can sustain and provide for our needs. We cannot afford to lose our national bird and the vital ecological services that they provide,” Sibbaluca added. “We urge the people to continue our fight to protect the King of the Birds from senseless killings.”

In 2011, the local farmers accidentally caught an injured eagle along a forest trail in the upland Buluan village in Calbiga, Samar. Despite treatment, the bird later died due to massive loss of blood from gunshot wound.

The bird was the first Philippine Eagle to be captured alive since the Regional Eagle Watch Team was created more than two decades ago to protect and conserve the Philippine Eagle and other raptors in Eastern Visayas.

The first Philippine Eagle was discovered in Samar Island 120 years ago by John Whitehead, an English explorer and naturalist. On June 13, 1896, his servant Juan brought him the first specimen of the eagle.

The official asked the participation of communities to protect the bird considering the manpower constraints of the central government.

In the region, a forest guard covers 20,000 hectares, way beyond the 3,000 hectares area for them to be able to effectively patrol the forest. (PNA)