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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Philippine Bird Festival takes flight in Palawan

by Karla Maquiling
August 7, 2008

There’s no better timing for the fourth Philippine Bird Festival than this September, which marks the start of the annual winter migration of birds from mainland China and Japan to tropical countries such as the Philippines.

Palawan Peacock
Palawan Peacock
As birds seek warmer climes, birdwatching hobbyists, conservationists, and eco tourism promoters flock to Puerto Princesa City in Palawan, which, with its diverse birdlife and pristine forests, fits the theme “Aba, Kakaiba!” to a tee.

The festival, which opens at the Puerto Princesa Coliseum on September 12 with an exhibit of rarely seen photos of Philippine birds, displays, lectures, films, and art activities for children, aims to encourage Filipinos to pursue eco-friendly recreational activities such as birdwatching and bird photography.

Birdwatching, says Department of Tourism secretary Ace Durano, will “open up unestablished destinations to the world.”

The Philippines, with its 580 different bird species–176 of which are unique to the archipelago–is expected to attract foreigners interested in eco travel.

Conservation awareness

Beyond its eco tourism thrust, “Aba, Kakaiba!” also wants to educate the public on the sad state of bird populations.

“Habitat loss from ill-planned development and urban pressure is the greatest threat to birdlife and other wildlife,” says nature enthusiast Michael Lu, president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, a bird conservation group that started the first Philippine Bird Festival in 2004.

“We hope to get communities and professional planners actively involved in developing ways to help wildlife through green spaces and nature-friendly property management,” Lu added.

Other activities at the Philippine Bird Festival are visits to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and Rasa Island. The latter is the last stronghold of the endemic and threatened Philippine cockatoo, whose population has declined by up to 60 percent due to logging, bird trading, and hunting.

These two areas are designated birdwatching hotspots under Adventure Philippines, a joint project of DOT and the Recreational Outdoor Exchange (ROX) that aims to push tourism traffic in less visited areas.

Local biodiversity and conservation groups Katala Foundation, Birdwatch Palawan, WWF-Philippines, Conservation International, Cebu Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Isla Biodiversity Foundation, Tubbataha Reefs Marine Natural Park Office, Philippine Butterfly Habitat Conservation Society, Western Philippines University, Artribe, My Zoo Foundation, Municipality of Taytay and Municipality of Narra are participating in the festival.

International organizations such as the Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network, Wild Bird Society of Taipei, the Chinese Wild Bird Federation, Xiamen Birdwatching Society, Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, Nature Society (Singapore) and the Nature Photographic Society (Singapore) will also be there.

The 4th Philippine Bird Festival is sponsored by the Department of Tourism, the City of Puerto Princesa, Team Energy Foundation, Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Landco Pacific, Malampaya Joint Venture Partners, Katala Foundation, Birdwatch Palawan, Aigle, and the Recreational Outdoor Exchange, Southeast Asia’s first and biggest outdoor superstore.

4th Philippine Bird Festival
September 12-13
Puerto Princesa City, Palawan