| Philippine Daily Inquirer
July 31, 2006
p. A 23
Paranaque protects city's winged visitors
City gov't plans birds sanctuaries
By Jocelyn Uy
Last updated 05:09 am (Mla time) 08/07/2006
Published on page A23 of the August 7, 2006 issue of the Philippine
THOUSANDS of transients in Paranaque
City are in need of a permanent home.
The homeless, however, are of the feathered
kind -- birds frequently sighted in the city like the Chinese Egrets,
Black-crowned Night Herons, Kentish plovers, Curlew Sandpipers and
Siberian Ruby Throats, among others.
According to Jo Orozca, city tourism
officer in charge, Paranaque has been eyeing two mangrove areas
that could serve as a haven for its "guests". These are
in Barangay La Huerta and the mudflats in Barangay Tambo called
"Freedom Island", just off the Coastal Road.
"The one in Barangay La Huerta
has been officially declared as a bird sanctuary," Orozca told
the Inquirer in an interview.
The property, donated by the Public
Estates Authority (PEA) to the city government, covers around five
to seven hectares, she added.
It would soon be developed into a bird
haven, complete with viewing towers, boardwalks, educational centers
and a park where bird lovers, watchers and photography clubs could
meet, that is, if plans of the local government would push through
with the help of the Wild Bird Club (WBC) of the Philippines.
Freedom Island as seen during sunset
A similar plan has also been drawn
up for the 25-ha "Freedom Island," where more than 82
species of birds have been sighted, as recorded by the WBC, since
The property, however, has yet to be
placed under the care of the local government. "The PEA has
yet to identify which part of the land will be turned over to the
government so the property rights is still with them," Orozca
The WBC, in a letter to the city government's
Special Services Office, has suggested that Paranaque, jointly declare
the island, with the Las Pinas government, a protected area.
"We have learned that Las Pinas
Representative Cynthia Villar has plans of declaring the part of
the island that lies in Las Pinas as a protected area," said
Michael Lu, the club's president, in his letter dated Oct. 21, 2005.
Over 80 species
Terns and gulls share a mudflat
Out of the 82 bird species on Freedom
Island, 46 were classified as a water birds, 28 belonged to the
grassland variety and the rest were associated with wetlands.
About 30 percent of the bird species
were rare, said the project proposal prepared by the Coastal and
Marine Management Division of the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources-National Capital Region.
"This is considered as a relatively
high percentage for a very small urban locality like Barangay Tambo.
Among the rare birds that could be found in the area include the
globally threatened Chinese Egret and the famous Siberian Ruby Throat,"
said the agency.
It is also said that the sanctuary
was a very important stopover fot the hundred thousand or so migratory
water birds during winter in neighboring countries. The agency also
identified the area as one of the remaining portions of Metro Manila
that has maintained its mangrove cover, which serves as a nursery
for various marine organisms such as fish, crabs and shrimps.
"Without mangroves, our shorelines
and coastal communities would lose their natural shield against
typhoons and other natural calamities," the agency said.
In 2004, the city council, led by Councilor
Carlito Antipuesto, came up with an ordinance declaring the area
as a bird sanctuary, reiterating the power of local government units
to enact ordinances to protect its environment under Republic Act
The proposed law prohibited the "cutting
and harvesting of mangroves and other plant species; the killing
of wildlife species; the collecting, hunting or possession of wildlife,
their by-products and derivatives; squatting and occupying any portion
of the sanctuary and the gathering or destroying of active nests
Any person caught violating the law
will be fined P5, 000 or face imprisonment of one to six months.
However, the proposed ordinance has
been gathering dust after the councilors passed it on first reading
two years ago.
"When we followed it up with the
city council, they said the ordinance was still on the committee
level," Orozca said, adding that the ordinance, if approved
on final reading, would help expedite negotiations with PEA.
Recently, the City Tourism Office has
discovered that a fishpond at the back of SM Sucat has become a
feeding ground for egrets and raptors.
As early as 5 am, the pond would be
dotted with nearly a hundred egrets that feed on crustaceans coming
from the Las Pinas River.
Erick Ferrer, city tourism operations
assistant, said the fishpond was part of the roughly 300 salt beds
that dominated the coastal communities of Paranaque and Las Pinas.
But the salt beds that were converted
into fishponds during the rainy season have been swallowed up by
buildings and subdivisions over the years.
Construction threatens egrets
Ferrer said that the ongoing expansion
of C-5 Road, linking the cities of Paranaque and Las Pinas to other
localities, might encroach on the fishpond, a privately-owned property.
The road construction is just a few meters away from the egret sanctuary.
"Development really poses a great
threat to these birds' natural habitat," he pointed out as
he hoped that city council would speed up the approval of the ordinance
in order to protect "Freedom Island" from hunters and
other persons who may damage the bird sanctuary.
"We can't shoo them away because
sometimes, even our personnel are not allowed to enter the property,"
Ferrer added that he was optimistic
that the council would soon act on the ordinance "because we
want future generation to see birds in the skies rather than in