| Cebu Daily News
May 08, 2006
In the middle of Cebu City just across the 20-hectare sanitary landfill,
local and migratory birds have found a new home on a controversial
strip of land made by man.
Among these are the elusive Philippine Duck and the rare Chinese Pond
Heron, which have been sighted by a prominent bird-watching group
feeding at the South Reclamation Project (SRP).
Nilo Arribas Jr., head of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines Inc.-Cebu
chapter, has recorded the sighting of the Philippine Duck, which is
endemic to the Philippines.
The presence of the Philippine Duck was an "important indicator
that the wetland is able to support the needs of the birds,"
of Little Egrets seen at the SRP
According to Arribas, the Philippine Duck has been considered as one
of the biggest mysteries of the bird-watching community in the Philippines.
"We haven't monitored where the ducks breed. Some birders see
them as either young or adult, we never saw them breeding somewhere,"
But the biggest surprise at the SRP was when Arribas saw the rare
Chinese Pond Heron, which according to worldwide birding census, was
only seen about five times in the last century in different parts
of the world.
According to rules set by the World Bird Census, a sighting of a bird
at a particular place must be confirmed by two other independent bird-watchers
before it would be officially recorded.
"There are also factors that should be considered like the time
of the day and the year and the weather," Arribas said.
In a fine day, Arribas said more than 500 birds of at least 25 species
can be found at two flooded portions of the SRP, as what he reported
to the International Water Bird Census.
These included sandpipers, egrets, wagtails, terns, sparrows and manias.
One of the flooded portions is located just beside the South Coastal
Road. The second is the 60-hectare unreclaimed portion called Pond
Half of the birds are migratory, or those who fly to another country
to escape winter.
Arribas said some birds at the SRP could never be found in the bigger
and more popular Olango Wildlife Sanctuary on Olango Island.
"We can consider the SRP a grassland/freshwater area. It is different
from Olango which we consider a tidal flat," he said.
Unlike Olango, the SRP is man-made and very close to the urban center,
which makes it extra special.
The SRP is dubbed as the "heart of the city" as it is accessible
in the north through the Cebu City port and in the south through an
access road in Barangay Mambaling.
It connects mainland Cebu to Kawit Island through the 11.72-kilometer
Cebu South Coastal Road, which starts at the Cebu City port area in
the north and ends in Talisay City in the south.
view of the SRP
The SRP, which was completed in 2001, was funded by a loan of 12.3
billion yen (about P6.3 billion) from the Japan Bank of International
Cooperation, making it the largest infrastructure project and loan
agreement secured by a local government.
Export processing zones and light industries are envisioned to sprout
on the reclaimed area, bringing in 100,000 jobs for Cebuanos. On its
beachfront will rise condominiums and hotels.
But for Arribas, the SRP can also be promoted as a bird-watching destination
in the city - not just to attract more tourists but also to encourage
people to appreciate and help protect the birds.
"We can use the SRP to promote tourism and to raise interest
among the people on migratory and endemic birds of the Philippines,"
"If they won't cover the wetland up, it is almost sure that the
bird population at the SRP will grow," he added.
But at present, Arribas noticed the lack of support from the local
government and little interest among locals about the birds.
"Every time we go to the SRP, it's always a hide-and-seek with
the authorities," he said.
Most of the people who contact the club and Arribas for a bird tour
"We should promote the SRP because it is a very good place for
bird-watching and you don't even have to travel far," he added.
He pointed out that in Luzon, in order to see the rare Philippine
Duck, birders had to travel five hours to Pagbilao town, Quezon.
Arribas hopes the Cebu City government would follow other local government
units like Parañaque and Marikina cities, which took advantage
of their wetlands and turn them into tourist destinations.
He said the club is helping the cities educate visitors and protect
the birds and their feeding ground. The Cebu City government, on the
other hand, has never asked them for help.