The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
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'Kalapati,' not avian sanctuary, are real threat to NAIA planes

ROUCHELLE R. DINGLASAN, GMA News September 12, 2012 3:57pm

WBCP holds a presscon (L-R) GIna Mapua, Mike Lu,
Ipat Luna, Arne Jensen

Beware the pigeons.
Wild birds, including those that migrate long distances to roost in Metro Manila's only avian sanctuary, do not pose a danger to airplanes, said the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines at a press conference on Wednesday.

Instead, aviation authorities should be more worried about domesticated pigeons, or kalapati, raised as pets by many urban residents and frequently permitted to fly free.

Philippine Airlines president Ramon Ang recently denounced the presence of a bird sanctuary in coastal Parañaque, or a "Critical Habitat," a few kilometers from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. “That endangers the life of all passengers that go to Naia,” Ang said.

The national bird-watching club said that it holds the safety of airplane passengers "paramount," but added, "[T]here is not a shred of evidence that the Critical Habitat is in any way connected with any bird strikes in Metro Manila."

The group was referring to the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, a protected zone along the Coastal Road with a mangrove forest and a coastal lagoon that is home to thousands of migratory birds.

Just as its name suggests, a bird strike is the collision of a bird or a flock of birds with a plane or any man-made structure. Bird strikes are potentially deadly events, as birds that get sucked into a plane's engines could do major damage to the plane and endanger the lives of the people aboard it.

At a press conference last week, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said that the bird sanctuary could be closed and transferred if proven that it poses a threat to aircraft coming in and out of NAIA.

In response, the group said that other international airports such as London's Heathrow and Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi Airport have bird sanctuaries nearby.

“It is also quite ludicrous to say that closing the sanctuary will remove the birds. If a sanctuary within their migratory path suddenly disappears, they will scatter even more to areas nearer the airport where they can pose a danger,” the group said.

The club asked NAIA and airport officers to disclose detailed information on bird strikes by conducting an in-depth study to determine risk areas and adaptive measures.

“NAIA [should also] enter into agreement with City Governments of Taguig, Las Piñas, Parañaque and Manila that breeding and feeding of potential high-strike land bird species, notably the many Feral Pigeons, will be banned,” noted Arne Jensen, the club’s records committee chairman.

Jensen also suggested establishing a NAIA bird strike committee that would include an independent ornithologist and hiring a 24-hour mobile bird strike patrol to do “runway sweeps” to frighten birds away before every takeoff or landing.

“You don't solve bird strikes in NAIA by vacuum-cleaning Coastal Lagoon,” Jensen added. — BM/HS, GMA News