ZAMBOANGA CITY At least 150 local and foreign bird-watching enthusiasts participated in this city's first Bird Watching Festival held last Saturday.
Andrew Sebastian from the Malaysian Nature Society taking
part in the street parade.
Local officials are hoping the event could somehow offset the bad publicity the city has been getting since the three-week September siege by Moro rebels loyal to former Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari.
The festival was mounted by the Department of Tourism in coordination with the Wild Birds Club International. The participating groups include the Penagmannaki Society from Negros Oriental, Katala Foundation of Palawan, Haribon Foundation and Birds Conservation Society of Thailand.
Members of these groups were able to visit bird-watching sites, which have attracting migratory birds during winter months in northern countries. In many instances, migratory birds are often seen here sitting on power and communication cables at the city proper during winter months.
Bernard C. Gregorio, a senior staff of the regional Department of Tourism and in charge of the event, said a trade fair was also held at the city’s Paseo de Zamboanga, the city’s seaside park, about a kilometer away from city hall.
Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco-Salazar joining the
delegates for birdwatching at the Intake Watershed.
"We have registered 25 booths of different organizations and 12 trade booths as backup," Mr. Gregorio said. The institutional booths of conservation groups feature photos of birds, some threatened with extinction and others endangered.
"Zamboanga is beautiful, you are lucky because the mountains here are just nearby. Some are untouched yet and the watersheds are still intact," said Angeles Satioquia, a volunteer event staff from the Katala Foundation.
The city hall claimed that Zamboanga still has about 15,000 hectares of virgin forest watershed that supplies most of the potable water requirements of the city proper and nearby communities.
The city, which attracts as many as 30,000 visitors monthly, has reportedly suffered significantly in terms of tourism receipts since the September siege. The regional Tourism office, however, could not provide updated visitor figures.
-- Karel B. Mellanes