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Bataan capital city gears up for migratory-bird festival

by Jonathan L. Mayuga
December 08, 2015

Philippine Bird Festival press conference at Kamuning Cafe (L-R) moderator Wilson Lee Flores,
former Senator Nikki Coseteng, WBCP President Gina Mapua and Balanga City Mayor Joet Garcia

THE City of Balanga in Bataan is gearing up for the annual festivities highlighting the town’s hosting of thousands of migratory birds starting on Wednesday.

The town is the host of the 10th Philippine Bird Festival from December 9 to 11.

The Philippine Bird Festival is the country’s first and largest educational event focused on raising awareness and appreciation of Philippine birds.

Held annually in partnership with local governments, academic institutions and non-governmental organizations, the festival goes to different places in the Philippines to highlight the unique and diverse bird species that occur on the disparate islands of the archipelago.

More than 600 species of birds have been recorded throughout the country, of which at least 230 are endemic, which means they can be found only in Philippines.

This is the second time Balanga played host to the annual event organized by the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines.

It hosted the Fifth Philippine Bird Festival in 2009.

A year after, it decided to adopt the concept of the celebration through its Ibong Dayo Festival, which is now on its sixth year.

The Balanga local government also pushed for the integration of subjects about biodiversity conservation, with particular focus on the importance of birds in the curricula of Grades 5 and 6 pupils, both in public and private schools.

Public and private schools, with the approval of the Department of Education in Balanga, started to teach students about the importance of birds and their habitats last year.

Meanwhile, the Balanga Tourism Office said around 3,000 individuals, composed of students, teachers and representatives of various institutions, including the local government of Balanga, are expected to join the kick-off ceremonies that will run until December 11.

The Provincial of Environment and Natural Resources Office in Bataan said the holding of migratory wild bird festival highlights the province’s resolve to protect the environment and conserve biodiversity.

Mila Ramirez, focal person for migratory wild birds of the DENR in Bataan, said the migration of these wild birds in Balanga indicates that the town is able to maintain its ecosystems healthy.

“This means that the ecosystems in Balanga and other parts of Bataan, remain healthy because they continue to attract migratory birds,” she said.

Migratory birds usually arrive starting in September, flying hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles from across the globe to avoid the winter cold and seek refuge in warmer weather.

Local governments, such as Balanga, she said, capitalized on the natural phenomenon by promoting the town as an ecotourism destination during the months when migratory wild birds start coming.

In a statement, the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines said the event is expected to gather birdwatchers, conservationists and nature enthusiasts from at least 25 organizations from the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, China and Japan.

Themed “Ibon at Kalikasan, Kayamanan ng Bayan” (Birds and Nature, Our Nation’s Treasure), the festival trains the spotlight on Bataan’s diverse bird life, with particular focus on the Green Racquet-tail (Prioniturus luconensis), a rare parrot that is making its last stand in the forests of Subic in Bataan’s Morong town.

“A Luzon endemic and endangered species, the Green Racquet-tail is threatened by the loss of its lowland forest habitat, hunting and pet trade. The only place in Luzon where it can be seen regularly is at the Subic Watershed Forest Reserve and the adjacent forests of Bataan National Park. The parrot’s numbers are dwindling to a point that the population may no longer be viable in the long-term,” says wildlife biologist Carmela Española, who has done a Luzon-wide survey of the remaining parrot population in 2009 and 2010.

The Green Racquet-tail, featured in the festival’s main logo, will share the spotlight with 12 other bird species that have been adopted by Bataan’s 11 towns and one component city. Each local government will have a logo of its adopted bird.

“We are very happy to bring back the Philippine Bird Festival to Bataan, especially seeing that the message of preserving habitats for migratory birds, which was the theme of the fifth Philippine Bird Festival in Balanga City, has taken root through the annual award-winning Ibong Dayo Festival. It speaks of the commitment of the people of Bataan and their leaders towards the conservation of their natural heritage,” says Gina Mapua, president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines.