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