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DoT to maximize Cebu bird species to attract birdwatching market

By MALOU M. MOZO

Manila Bulletin
November 1, 2009, 8:00pm

CEBU CITY – The Department of Tourism (DoT) is capitalizing on the Cebu Flowerpecker, a rare endemic bird species found only in the municipalities of Alcoy and Tabunan, to lure 58-million bird-watching enthusiasts from the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) combined.

“The Cebu Flowerpecker is the top three rarest birds in the world. On a tourism point of view, something rare is attractive but not too rare that others can’t enjoy,” Tourism Secretary Ace Durano said in a recent press conference.

Durano, along with other DoT officials, UK tour operators specializing on bird-watching, and bird club members nationwide were in Cebu early last month for the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) signing between Birdlife International and DoT, in the latter’s commitment to provide sustainable programs for the promotion and conservation of the Cebu Flowerpecker, and other over 200 endemic bird species in the country.

Durano said the Cebu Flowerpecker was the featured specie during the recently concluded UK Bird Fair, because “it has never been photographed, and was only known through word of mouth, thus creating sort of a mystery which will motivate birdwatchers from around the world to visit Cebu.”

Filipino birdwatcher Mike Lu described the Cebu Flowerpecker as being “poorly known canopy dwellers which rarely makes any sound.” It is also a critically endangered bird.

Durano, however, assured that in the DoT’s Birdwatching Philippines campaign, the Department will create a community-based program to properly manage the volume of tourist traffic while ensuring that the birds’ natural habitat will not be harmed.

It is the DoT’s vision, he added, that the Department, through the conservation-education program, will equip communities not only as “specie guardians,” that is, individuals and organizations that will take the lead in conserving globally-threatened species in the country, but also as tour guides.

“In the end, it’s a win-win situation,” Durano stressed, adding that bird-watching allows DoT to push tourism traffic in the interior communities, apart from promoting Cebu’s beaches and other watersports activities, and further boost economic opportunities in the countryside.

Other birdwatching sites in Cebu include famed Olanggo Island in Mactan, which is a destination for some 93 migratory birds; Boljoon, and Dalaguete Forest, which are both homes to another endemic bird species, the Black Shama