October 14, 2009 07:50:00
BATAAN, Philippines — Protection of
the country's forests and wetlands are beneficial not only
to migratory birds that flock to the country during wintering
months but also to the country’s local economy, officials
Keynoting the fifth Philippine Bird Festival
at Balanga City in Bataan last week, Tourism secretary Ace
Durano said that aside from ecological benefits, the presence
of migratory birds in the country will propel tourism in the
country and give jobs to Filipinos.
Thousands of rare migratory birds from Asian
mainland, Japan, and Australia such as the black-winged stilts,
Philippine duck, and the Chinese egret flock to the country’s
wetlands between the months of October and March and tourists
who visit birding sites can create alternative livelihood
for local communities, said Durano.
The presence of migrating birds in the country’s
wetlands and forests signal that the environment is “healthy”
to support both wildlife and human needs, said ornithologist
Arne Jensen, who is also one of the 12 founders of Wild Bird
Club of the Philippines (WBCP).
WBCP is a non-profit organization composed
of volunteers that promote bird watching activities to promote
appreciation of bird life in the country and conservation
Said Jensen, the number of shorebirds recorded
in Balanga wetlands during the Asian Water Bird Census in
January topped other four sites in the country, after WBCP
recorded 15,521 birds.
A bird watcher since last year, Durano said
the department of tourism (DoT) is increasing efforts to promote
local communities as bird watching destinations, where local
and foreign tourists can observe or photograph birds in the
Durano said the department of tourism is
grooming the country as a top bird watching destination with
its rich biodiversity including 600 bird species, of which
200 are endemic species or can only be found locally based
on data from WBCP.
Since March 2008, DoT sponsored the publication
of two books on bird watching in the Philippines with information
and photographs by WBCP members, said WBCP president Mike
“Bird watching allows us to bring prosperity
to communities through alternative jobs created via tourism.
At the same time, we mandate stakeholders to protect the environment
they inhabit,” said Durano.
“Through the bird festival, we resonate
our call to Filipinos starting with the children up to the
government officials to act together, get informed about our
biodiversity and the importance of protecting them,”
Lu said once a community is identified as
a potential bird watching site, WBCP and DoT coordinates with
the local government to educate people about conservation
of its forest and wetland areas so that it will continue to
shelter wildlife, including birds.
Aside from promotion of bird watching sites,
the Philippines should control its ballooning population and
inform the public about the link of conservation and economic
prosperity, said Jensen, who has been studying birds in the
country for 20 years.
“The lack of policy on child spacing
has taken its toll on the country’s natural resources
and continuous land conversion decreased the natural habitat
for birds and naturally, the birds disappear—a signal
that the environment resources are below optimum level to
sustain life,” said Jensen.
“There is also a need to make the people
understand the connection between conservation efforts and
good economy. The Philippines has the best environmental laws
but when it comes to implementation it is so-so. People should
be informed that with a good environment, you can sustain
a good quality of life because for example, you have safe
water from the watersheds. When you have watersheds, birds
will come and you can develop the area as bird watching site,”
The fifth Philippine bird festival, which
is attended by bird watchers and conservationists, marks the
migration of wintering shorebirds from Asian mainland and