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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Save RP as home for birds to create jobs

October 14, 2009 07:50:00
Anna Valmero

BATAAN, Philippines — Protection of the country's forests and wetlands are beneficial not only to migratory birds that flock to the country during wintering months but also to the country’s local economy, officials said.

Keynoting the fifth Philippine Bird Festival at Balanga City in Bataan last week, Tourism secretary Ace Durano said that aside from ecological benefits, the presence of migratory birds in the country will propel tourism in the country and give jobs to Filipinos.

Thousands of rare migratory birds from Asian mainland, Japan, and Australia such as the black-winged stilts, Philippine duck, and the Chinese egret flock to the country’s wetlands between the months of October and March and tourists who visit birding sites can create alternative livelihood for local communities, said Durano.

The presence of migrating birds in the country’s wetlands and forests signal that the environment is “healthy” to support both wildlife and human needs, said ornithologist Arne Jensen, who is also one of the 12 founders of Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP).

WBCP is a non-profit organization composed of volunteers that promote bird watching activities to promote appreciation of bird life in the country and conservation efforts.

Said Jensen, the number of shorebirds recorded in Balanga wetlands during the Asian Water Bird Census in January topped other four sites in the country, after WBCP recorded 15,521 birds.

A bird watcher since last year, Durano said the department of tourism (DoT) is increasing efforts to promote local communities as bird watching destinations, where local and foreign tourists can observe or photograph birds in the wild.

Durano said the department of tourism is grooming the country as a top bird watching destination with its rich biodiversity including 600 bird species, of which 200 are endemic species or can only be found locally based on data from WBCP.

Since March 2008, DoT sponsored the publication of two books on bird watching in the Philippines with information and photographs by WBCP members, said WBCP president Mike Lu.

“Bird watching allows us to bring prosperity to communities through alternative jobs created via tourism. At the same time, we mandate stakeholders to protect the environment they inhabit,” said Durano.

“Through the bird festival, we resonate our call to Filipinos starting with the children up to the government officials to act together, get informed about our biodiversity and the importance of protecting them,” said Lu.

Lu said once a community is identified as a potential bird watching site, WBCP and DoT coordinates with the local government to educate people about conservation of its forest and wetland areas so that it will continue to shelter wildlife, including birds.

Aside from promotion of bird watching sites, the Philippines should control its ballooning population and inform the public about the link of conservation and economic prosperity, said Jensen, who has been studying birds in the country for 20 years.

“The lack of policy on child spacing has taken its toll on the country’s natural resources and continuous land conversion decreased the natural habitat for birds and naturally, the birds disappear—a signal that the environment resources are below optimum level to sustain life,” said Jensen.

“There is also a need to make the people understand the connection between conservation efforts and good economy. The Philippines has the best environmental laws but when it comes to implementation it is so-so. People should be informed that with a good environment, you can sustain a good quality of life because for example, you have safe water from the watersheds. When you have watersheds, birds will come and you can develop the area as bird watching site,” said Jensen.

The fifth Philippine bird festival, which is attended by bird watchers and conservationists, marks the migration of wintering shorebirds from Asian mainland and Japan.