DENR declares Aguawan beach in Bataan safe for swimming

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu declared on Tuesday a portion of Manila Bay in Bataan safe for swimming after the water quality had improved barely three months after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) started its massive cleanup and rehabilitation of the historic Manila Bay.

According to Cimatu, Aguawan beach in Barangay Sisiman in Mariveles town of Bataan had a significantly reduced fecal coliform level from 790 most probable number (MPN)/ 100 ml in January of this year to only 12 MPN/ 100 ml this month, which is way below the standard level of 100 mpn.

Fecal coliform are bacteria coming from human and animal wastes that contaminate the water and indicate the presence of pathogens.

“The improvement began after we shut down piggeries that were dumping wastes into the bay, which we also did in Cavite and Bulacan. However, the speedy compliance of industries here to environmental laws made it much faster to improve the water quality," he explained.

Cimatu also said the relentless efforts made by the DENR Central Luzon personnel and Local Government Units (LGU) of Mariveles to clean the beach in Bataan have also contributed to the fast improvement of water quality in the area.

But the environment czar admitted that the work is far from done, as Aguawan beach is only a fraction of the 190-kilometer coastline of the Manila bay area.

Of the total coastline of the Bay, 142 kilometers are in Central Luzon with Bataan alone having over 77 kilometers of coastline which is part of the Bay.

Paquito Moreno, executive director of the DENR in Central Luzon said Aguawan beach is only one of the three areas in Mariveles declared safe for swimming. The other two are the beaches located in Sitio Babuyan in Barangay Mount View and in Sitio Boracay in Barangay Lucanin.

“The cooperation of our communities had been vital in cleaning the Bay.We have intensified our information campaign to increase the awareness and participation of the communities and other stakeholders,” he said.

DENR reports showed that 37 cleanups have already been conducted since January 2019 in Mariveles with local governments including volunteers from the academe and civil society that resulted in the collection of 49.95 tons of solid waste.

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June 4 to 10 of every year is Philippine Eagle Week

AGAWID: THE UNTOLD STORY

Sighting for the birds of prey

For decade wildlife experts and biologists of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Luzon have been monitoring the vast and diverse mountain ranges of Sierra Madre in the portion of Nueva Ecija and Aurora to confirm the presence of Philippine Eagle. Wildlife officers have been tracking down this birds of prey and were unfortunate to confirm its existence in the area.

In 2000, local communities have observed this raptor flying in the clear sky, probably hunting for its food. But they are unsure of its true identity. However, this sighting further gave hope to conservationists to continue its quest in probing the existence of Philippine eagle in the mountain ranges of Sierra Madre.

According to literature, Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is the world's largest eagle. Sadly, it is also one of the endangered species in the country. Standing at three feet tall and with a wingspan of seven feet, it is no doubt that the Philippine eagle is truly king among the great birds of prey.

The Philippine eagle can live to between 30 and 60 years of age. It feeds mainly on flying lemurs, palm civets and monkeys, hence the alternative common name of 'monkey-eating eagle'. Other prey items include rats, snakes, flying squirrels, birds and bats.

This species is endemic to the Philippines and found on parts of the larger islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao

A rescued raptor

Hope never fails. Sometime on June 2016, an upland farmer found a juvenile eagle trapped in a snare or “silo” that was used in catching monkey inside the Aurora Memorial National Park (AMNP). The wildlife sustained no serious injuries in the ordeal.

The raptor was immediately turned-over to the DENR-Community Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO) based in Dingalan and was transferred to the custody of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) where it was cared for until its release into the wild. It was estimated that the eagle is just three years old.

The bird’s existence finally confirmed the presence of this critically endangered species in the Sierra Madre mountain range, a truly pride of Central Luzon.

Life in captivity

Agawid was placed in custody at the DENR Wildlife Rescue Center in Quezon City where the young eagle undergoes treatment and care. Agawid was placed in an eagle dome cage to prevent any human interaction. It was 17 months in captivity.

On May 2017, Agawid was transferred to a hack cage and brought back to a forest area in the national park of Aurora. The eagle undergoes a six month hacking process to ensure his survival and adaptive capacity in the wild.

Return to the wild

After more than a year of captivity, the young female Philippine eagle was released into the wild on October 4, 2017 in the forests area of AMNP. The released was historic and symbolic as it coincides with the confirmation of Secretary Roy. A Cimatu.

The spectacular eagle weighs approximately 5.31 kilograms just before its release. The eagle was named “Agawid,” an Ilocano word meaning “go home”. The eagle was able to return successfully to its natural habitat. It has been fitted with harnessed with radio transmitter to help DENR authorities monitor the eagle’s activities.

On April 2018, DENR Aurora and BMB conducted a re-trapping and monitoring of the young Agawid to check its health condition.

Today, Agawid is learning to hunt and survive in the wild. There are times that the young eagle return back to the community to hunt pets and other domesticated animal as an easy prey.

Portion of AMNP along the highway in Barangay Villa Maria in Maria Aurora town has been a favorite spot for many tourists as they enjoy a closer look of Agawid alights in the tree tops of tall dipterocarp trees in search for prey.

Agawid is being closely monitored to protect against illegal hunters and poachers. The eagle is a true symbol of the Filipino and crown jewel of Philippine biodiversity.

Let us protect Agawid and its habitat.

It is our country’s national bird, a beacon of hope and barometer of our ecosystem.

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