September 17, 2009
BY GENIVI FACTAO
The once sleepy city of Balanga first awoke
to the sounds and sights of migratory birds. Next came the
Ribbon-cutting during the Dedication
Ceremony at the Balanga
City Wetland Park (L-R) Mike Lu, Anna Gonzales,
Mayor Joet Garcia, Vice Mayor Noel Valdecanas
The city east of Bataan is a perfect spot
for bird watching of migrant shorebirds and waterfowls which
come from all over the country and the northern hemisphere,
said Manuel Banzon III, of Balanga served as our tourist guide.
Bataan Peninsula lies along what is known
as the East Asian -Australian flyway, where many birds undertake
an annual North-South migration pattern all over the world.
Balanga is an ideal stop over to migrating forest and water
birds from Russia , China , Japan , Korea , Siberia and as
far as Canada .
Mayor Joet Garcia said there are about 15,000
birds with 35 species that visit Balanga. They include Little
Egrets, Purple Herons, Brahminy Kites, Peregrine Falcon, Chestnut
Checked Starling, White Breasted Waterhens, Rails, Wood Sandpiper,
Rufous Necked Stint, Grey Heron and species of Kingfishers,
flower peckers and Sandpipers.
Since Balanga has preserved thick mangrove
forest, grassland and wetland, it served as a favorable roosting
for crows, waterhens, kites, falcons, hawks, pigeons, herons,
"They are best spotted at 6 in the morning
and in the afternoon during the months starting October to
March," Garcia said.
He said bird watching is educational and
at the same time promotes tourism, and which when fully utilized,
its potentials can bring investment opportunities and profit
for the local government.
He added that this ecotourism activity can
attract tourists from different parts of the world. At the
recently concluded 5th Bird Festival held by the city, there
were at least 60 foreign tourists from Malaysia , Singapore
, Taiwan , Hong Kong and Korea .
The European market, tagged as one of the
high-spending tourism segments, is targeted for its preference
of adventure tourism like bird watching.
"Bird watching has a big market and
in the United Kingdom alone, there are more than a million
bird watchers," Tourism Secretary Ace Durano said.
Durano said Balanga, is where he he saw his
"first love"-- the Black Winged Stilts, to which
he gushed "wow legs", because it’s a red long-
legged bird. As an amateur bird watcher, I spotted Egrets,
Terns and Black Winged Stilt, in the seaside village of Tortugas
I learned at the 5th Philippine Bird Festival
Balanga, that Egret is a common species, usually easily seen
feeding in shallow water or drier habitats, spearing fish,
frogs or insects.
The Great Egret (Egretta alba) is a large
bird with all white plumage that can reach 101 cm in height
and weigh up to 950 g.
The Great Egret is partially migratory, with
northern hemisphere birds moving South from areas with cold
winters. It breeds in colonies in trees close to large lakes
with reed beds or other extensive wetlands. It will often
wait motionless for prey, or slowly stalk its victim.
Balanga is a unique city that thrives by
promoting education, culture, tourism, technology and environmental
Perspective of the Balanga City Wetland
Center by Arch't Anna Gonzales
Mayor Garcia said their Balanga Wetland Park
project, with a land area of about 2 hectares, require investments
amounting to P20 million to P30 million.
He said the thick mangrove forest, wetland,
grassland, mudflats and sand flat of Balanga are unique characteristic
that makes it a home to rare birds endemic to the Philippines
The local chief said there are few hotel
investors in the province that have seen a potential boom
in the industry.
"We have already poured in P5 million
for the Infocenter in our Wetland Park and construction is
going on with the help of Wild Bird Club who made the design.
No fees were being collected from bird watchers, but they
are encouraged to plant in mangrove area to help in the development
of the land," he said.
He added that after they have completed the
park, they would realize some income for the city government.
"We can also set up boats going to the
wetland, which can be a good source of revenues. We only have
small hotels here with less than 500 rooms, so we encouraged
those who have big houses to have them rented or offer bed
and breakfast facility for tourists. Our thrust is less structure
to make it more natural, the better," he added.
The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, a leading
conservation organization in the United Kingdom assisted the
Department of Tourism and other agencies in the preservation
and promotion of wetlands for wildlife habitat.