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Migratory birds in danger of losing Metro Manila home to aircraft

JM TUAZON, GMA News
07/08/2011 | 01:53 PM

Some 80 species of migratory birds are in danger of losing their sanctuary in Metro Manila to aircraft, according to a report on GMA News' "News to Go" on Friday.

Citing issues of flight safety, authorities are planning to relocate the Parañaque-Las Pinas bird lagoon which is located near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Officials of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said an increase in bird strikes at the airport was recorded in the past few months.

"Pinapag-aralan muna kung posible mang mangyari na mailipat sila (bird sanctuary), mas well and good na malayo sa runway," said Joseph Agustin, OIC of the Airport Ground Operations and Safety Division of the MIAA.

Agustin said the lagoon is located along the flight path of planes at NAIA and the birds could ram onto the planes or get sucked in engines, causing flight disruptions and possibly, air crashes.

In May, for example, a large bird ran onto the body of one of the Philippine Airlines' aircraft, damaging the plane.

As similar incidents had happened in the past, the MIAA discussed the issue with local government officials.

The plan is to amend an 18-year-old ban on breeding pigeons within five kilometers of the airport.

Instead of five kilometers, authorities suggest raising the coverage of the ban to 13 kilometers. The wider area will include the Parañaque-Las Pinas bird lagoon.

Deadlock

However, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), a mere ordinance cannot overturn a Presidential Proclamation issued by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declaring the coastal lagoon a bird sanctuary and eco-tourism area.

"An ordinance cannot supersede a Presidential Proclamation, [the latter] will always prevail," said Director Reynaldo Villafuerte of the DENR-NCR.

Villafuerte said that it is impossible that migratory birds were responsible for the recent spate of bird strikes in the airport, since the migration season has not begun yet.

"Wala kaming ganoon kalaking ibon diyan. The month of May is summer season, these migratory birds do not come [during] summer. Usually, they come in the months of September and October," he explained.

Counter to natural flight path of birds

Meanwhile, Mike Lu, president of the Wild Birds Club Philippines, said the proposed reclamation runs counter to the natural flight path of birds.

"[This sanctuary] is their flight path, at eto yung isa sa mga stopover areas nila. The whole Manila Bay is considered an IBA or Important Bird Area," he said.

Should the plan push through, Lu said the authorities run the risk of making the public suffer the consequences.

"That means all the resident birds here will either die or try to find some place else. [This is the] stopover place of the birds, it means they would have to fly further away, or they will find the next open area, which is the airport," Lu said.

Another problem

Meanwhile, aside from airport safety issues, the same bird sanctuary is also in danger of being replaced with a P14-billion reclamation project being pushed in the area.

According to a report on community news site Allvoices.com, fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) claimed that reclamation caused the rapid deterioration of bird population in the lagoon, from a high of 28,000 birds four decades ago until it nosedived to only 5,000 today.

The group had already asked the Supreme Court to uphold its ruling on bay rehabilitation and clean-up.

“The court should instruct Malacañang and PRA to cease and desist from pushing a destructive plan in favor of a new business center that is triggered by the development slogan Public-Private Partnership (PPP)," the group stressed.

Authorities watching over the lagoon have come up with a compromise measure, which will see an installation of a channel and a bridge for a waterway between the proposed reclamation and the bird sanctuary, so as not to cut the lagoon off from Manila Bay. — VVP, GMA News