National Geographic : 2002 Jul
Running out of room, the endangered Philippine eagle, one of the world's largest, needs broad forests to survive. At the Philippine Eagle Center on Mindanao, Eddie Juntilla (above) trains an eagle raised in captivity for artificial insemination. Many Filipinos must choose between conservation and food on the table. A woman on Panay (right) resorts to planting rice in the rocky soil of a forest charred by destructive slash-and-burn farming. Many bone-poor Filipinos have fled degraded islands for relatively intact havens such as Pala wan. But their desperation travels with them. Although polluting industrial plants make more headlines, much environmental damage is done in little bits by anonymous, needy people forced into the simple daily choice between conserva tion and food in the belly. "Every day we get reports of illegal quarry ing, illegal logging, illegal fishing," said Grizelda "Gerthie" Mayo-Anda, a 41-year-old native Palawan dynamo who founded and now heads a group of crusading lawyers called the Envi ronmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC). "But most of these people have fled from sheer poverty, militarization, and conflict. They need help." Offering alternative ways to survive from ecotourism and handicrafts to fishing and food processing-must accompany con servation measures that restrict the harvesting of endangered natural resources. Mayo-Anda, demure as a schoolgirl in prim gold-wire glasses, minces no words about the government: "The Philippines has some of the most progressive environmental laws in the world, but the government doesn't provide the money or political will to implement them. Without that, laws become mere rhetoric." In 1996 ELAC came to the rescue of a com munity of indigent fishermen on Honda Bay, near Puerto Princesa. Mostly migrants to Pala wan from the Visayas, they had built their shanties on a tourist boat jetty that the city had constructed from the toxic tailings of a spent American-owned mercury mine. Sickness fol lowed, but some 2,000 people stayed. Most of them overfished and abused the waters with cyanide and dynamite until the catches of tuna, mackerel, grouper, and zuno plummeted to disastrous levels. ELAC helped the fishermen organize the Honda Bay Boatmen's Association to take NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, JULY 2002 1 "