Date: May 09, 2006
By Doris C. Bongcac and
Neil Iosif Ilagan
The presence of rare birds
at the South Reclamation Project (SRP) has placed
the city government in a “difficult”
situation, according to SRP manager
Nigel Paul Villarete.
Villarete said that while
the 300-hectare SRP was designed to enhance the
city’s economic development, it would also
be a waste to get rid of the
“It is gradually
developing into a very interesting situation, one that
wanted to think about carefully. We have to consider
its implications,” he
Villarete said he discussed
the presence of birds with Mayor Tomas Osmeña,
but the mayor had yet to decide on the matter.
A prominent bird-watching
group has identified the elusive Philippine Duck
and the rare Chinese Pond Heron as among the
500 birds of 25 species that
have fed and frolicked at the two man-made ponds
inside the SRP.
One is actually a flooded
portion called Pond B, which is beside the South
Coastal Road. The other is the 60-hectare unreclaimed
portion called Pond A.
B at the SRP
The Philippine Duck is
endemic to the Philippines. It has been considered as
“mysterious” by the bird-watching
community because nobody knew where it
But he said they were surprised
to find rare Chinese Pond Heron because this
bird species was only seen about five times in
the last century in the
Philippines, according to
the Guide to the Birds of 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,”
said Nilo Arribas
Jr., head of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
Villarete said the city
government did not intend to create a habitat for
the birds when they envisioned the SRP.
Economic development was
all that they had in mind, he said.
“It is strange for
an economic infrastructure project to have a certain
benefit from out of the blue. We have to think about
this carefully,” he
Little Egrets at Pond
Pond B was a result of the sudden change in the
design implemented by former Mayor Alvin Garcia.
He said Garcia did
not follow the elevation of 3.2 meters as specified
in the original plan. Instead, the former mayor
reduced the elevation to only 2.7 meters, which
allowed rainwater to flood the area every time
“I’m very certain
that his (Garcia’s) intention was not to create
area for the birds either,” said Villarete.
But he said stored rainwater
might affect the soil’s stability and load
carrying capacity of the area. It could also
affect the integrity of a
portion of the South Coastal Road.
“The logical thing
to do is to fill it up but we are also faced with a
situation wherein there is now wild life in the
area,” he said.
“We have to make
a decision on whether to prioritize land use and continue
with its intended purpose, which is economic
production, or keep such as a
wetland,” he added.
But officials of the Department
of Environment and Natural Resources in
Central Visayas (DENR-7) are not keen on having
a bird sanctuary inside the
Eduardo Inting, DENR-7
director for protected areas, wildlife and coastal
zones management sector, said there was not enough
vegetation like mangroves
in the two ponds that could support these migratory
The size of the ponds could
only accommodate less number of birds as
compared to existing bird sanctuaries on the
islands of Olango and Bantayan.
Reynaldo Yray, DENR-7 chief
of the biodiversity and wildlife management
section, said the “wetland” was only
brought about by seawater seepage, thus
making the water in the area dependent on the
He said that even if the
ponds would be filled up, the birds would simply
head to Olango or Bantayan.
While there is still no
development being done at the SRP, the Office of the
City Veterinarian plans to use the area for their
Dubbed as “Bird Watch,
Don’t Touch!” the program will enable Cebuanos
view these birds without going to Olango or Bantayan,
said city veterinarian
She pointed out that they
considered 90 percent of the migratory birds as
“residents” of the area because based
on their monitoring, they had not left
the ponds when they should have made their homeward
journey by February to