By: Neojames C. Miguel
For the past decades, there is continuous degradation of the wetland ecosystem. With this, rehabilitation area needs to form to protect and preserve them.
In 2007, Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) in Manila Bay was established under a Presidential Proclamation to protect the critical state of the area’s rich biodiversity. It was then amended a year later.
LPPCHEA is considered Metro Manila’s “last bird sanctuary” and is the sixth Ramsar site in the Philippines, after it was listed last March 2013 as a wetland of international importance under the Convention on Wetlands (signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971 and also known as the Ramsar Convention). With this, they have to maintain the “wise use” of the wetland.
Located between the southwest portion of Metro Manila and Manila Bay, the 175-hectare protected area was divided into two main landmasses, the Long Island at the southwest portion of the LPPCHEA in Las Piñas City and the Freedom Island at the northeast part in Parañaque City. In these areas, the most prevalent plant species that can be found are the Mangroves.
What is found in the area: Bird sanctuary
LPPCHEA is predominantly covered by mudflats, brush, grass, beach, dirt, and mangrove areas. According to coastsandreefs.net, “mudflats are very important habitats that support huge numbers of birds and fish. They provide both feeding and resting areas for waders and waterfowl and also act as nursery areas for flatfish.”
Mangroves are known as the “first line of defense” for coastal communities since it slows down erosion and provides natural barriers to resist storm surge, flooding, and hurricanes. Eight mangroves are covering about 30 hectares of the area.
These mudflats and mangroves provide a source of food to about 5,000 migratory and local birds daily. According to wetlands.ph, “the count of different bird species range from 54 from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – National Capital Region (DENR-NCR) to 80 bird species by the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines.
Of these bird species, the Philippine Duck (Anas luzonica) and Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes) are vulnerable or are likely to become endangered unless the circumstances threatening their survival and reproduction improve. Also noteworthy are the Black-Winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus) population in LPPCHEA which is estimated at about 1% of the total global population of Black-Winged Stilts.”
There were 29 counted migratory birds by DENR, including the Siberian Rubythroat (Luscinia calliope). They feast on mudflats from August to April every year.
What is found in the area: Wetland Park
Inside LPPCHEA lies a Wetland Park where one can experience nature trekking and viewing, provided there are accredited local DENR tour guides and birdwatching guides. It also offers seasonal activities for enthusiasts, seminars on different topics relating to wetlands provided by experts, learning about on-site waste management or known as vermicomposting, and participates in coastal clean-ups in the area.
How the area is protected
To protect the birds that belongs from different habitations, bird sanctuaries were built in the area.
As part of the Ramsar Convention, LLPCHEA has to meet the responsibilities, which is why the United Nations Diversity was tasked to create the Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) Plan for biodiversity conservation in LPPCHEA, as per the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). According to them, “the plan aims to identify which factors are required for ecological wellbeing and which fit with the people’s socio-economic reality, as well as to guide collective action towards meeting development goals while maintaining the wetland’s ecological functions upon which residents’ livelihoods rely.”
For all the stakeholders, the general plan includes public awareness of LPPCHEA’s existence. Based on their study, “many neighboring residents are unaware that there is such an area near them. Individual action plans for stakeholder groups were designed as a practical guide that could get all stakeholders actively involved and motivate them to appreciate the biodiversity and ecosystem services they receive from LPPCHEA.” They would also like to emphasize how to live in harmony with nature, knowing that the area exists.
The LPPCHEA was spared from all forms of reclamation activities going on in the coastal area of Manila Bay after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) simultaneously announced the area as a “critical habitat.”
According to Mrs. Mary Jane Voluntad, a public high school teacher, those who recently decided to have a picnic held in the area were “asked and prohibited by the assigned city government personnel to wear any red clothing because it will scare the birds,” since it symbolizes the sight of forest fire to different migratory birds.
Aside from this, they were also informed that the sanctuary only accommodates and admits the entrance to less than ten people at a time to conserve the quietness and peaceful environment and also to not interrupt and disturb the birds inhabiting the sanctuary. Last October 2016, there was also a tree-planting activity held in LPPCHEA conducted by DENR, the Government of Parañaque, and the Parañaque Cooperative and Developmental Office.
LPPCHEA is open to the public for free, though you have to seek prior clearance from the DENR as it is a protected area.
This article was written and prepared by Neojames Miguel (Student-Journalist) and Edwina Casaria (School Paper Adviser) from Parañaque National High School – Main, Division of Paranaque City as a final output of DepEd-DRRMS and AYEJ.org’s Green Beat Initiative: An Online Environmental Journalism Training.