The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines

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Metro Manila's wetlands primed for ecotourism

By Izah Morales, Yahoo! Southeast Asia | The Inbox Wed, Jun 8, 2011

Black-crowned night heron (Marlo Cueto/NPPA Images)
Black-crowned night heron (Marlo Cueto/NPPA Images)

Amid the towering buildings and the busy atmosphere of the city lies an avian sanctuary for local and migratory birds. One does not need to go far to find wild birds such as the vulnerable Philippine duck, the endangered Chinese Egret and the rare Pied Avocet.

A thirty-minute drive from the Philippine capital, Manila, would lead birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts to the mangrove forest of the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA), located at the western side of the Cavite-Manila Coastal Road.

"We are constantly looking for new products to promote and we saw a niche of tourists such as the environmentalists and birdwatchers," said Atty. Ma. Victoria Jasmin, Department of Tourism undersecretary for tourism regulation, coordination, and resource generation.

The 175-hectare LPPCHEA consisting of the Freedom Island and Long Island is home to 5,000 wild birds (counted as of 2004), of which 69 are water bird species and 51 are migratory species. The migratory birds visit the area from July to May as part of the East Asian-Australian flyway.

"In the Philippines, we have 600 species of birds, of which 30% is endemic or native to the Philippines," said Michael Lu, president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines.

According to Jasmin, the Philippines experienced an increase of arrivals of birdwatchers from Hong Kong, Singapore, and Europe after promoting bird watching in the World Travel Mart in London in 2008.

In any case, Jasmin clarified, "Ecotourism is not for mass tourism. We want to attract birdwatchers and environmentalists because these are the responsible tourists. We want to have little intervention in the area since it is a critical habitat."

The LPPCHEA was declared as a critical habitat by Proclamation No. 1412 in 2007 to underscore the need to protect and conserve the area.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which acts as chair, is planning to add view towers, observation hides, nature trails and boardwalks as part of the development framework in the area.

DoT Usec. Atty. Ma. Victoria Jasmin (Marlo Cueto/NPPA Images)
DoT Usec. Atty. Ma. Victoria Jasmin
(Marlo Cueto/NPPA Images)

Rey Aguinaldo, Project Manager-LPPCHEA, DENR also related that they have planted 5,000 seedlings and saplings, of which 3,000 are mangroves.

"We want to enhance the area as a living laboratory for researchers and students," said Aguinaldo.

"As of now, we don't charge any fees so entrance is free but when the enhancements are done, there would be corresponding fees," he added.

Lu suggested that birdwatchers visit the area early in the morning or late in the afternoon when temperature is cooler and when the tide is low. Non-birdwatchers can also join guided tours arranged by the WBCP, added Lu.

Before visiting the LPPCHEA, one needs to secure permit first from the DENR by calling their office at 435-2410 or 09086354678, said Aguinaldo.