A survey team recently recorded the first sighting of the critically endangered Philippine eagle in the Peñablanca forests in five years. Severe habitat destruction throughout the Philippines has pushed the island nation's national bird to the edge of extinction. Its presence strengthens the case for the expansion of the Peñablanca Protected Landscape as a core area of the Sierra Madre Biodiversity Corridor.
The survey by Conservation International-Philippines (CI) and the local unit of the government's Department of Environment and Natural Resources recorded 134 species, confirming the area's high level of species diversity.
The survey is part of a larger CI-Philippines project supported by CEPF to create and expand new protected areas to form a biodiversity corridor to protect the remaining old growth forests in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range on Luzon Island.
As part of the project, CI has worked with local, regional, and national stakeholders to support the development of the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape expansion bill, introduced in the Philippines Congress in late 2002 and now the subject of public hearings. This legislation would expand an existing protected area of 4,136 hectares to 118,108 hectares.
As Peñablanca is adjacent to the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, the legislation would ultimately bring more than 475,000 contiguous hectares under conservation management. The result would be the largest block of forest under protection in the country, providing critical habitat for the Philippine eagle and other threatened species unique to the Philippines.