Bird Sanctuary To Be Preserved, Turned Into Eco-Tourism Site

MANILA, Philippines - A bird sanctuary located along the Parañaque City coastal area that has become the subject of intense debate in recent months will be preserved to become part of a major eco-tourism development that will rise on nearby reclaimed lands.

The Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) belied earlier claims made by an environmental group that the man-made bird sanctuary would be removed to make way for the reclamation.

''The PRA has always been one with the Manila Bay Critical Habitat Management Council (MBCHMC) in preserving this critical habitat. We have secured this place long before its declaration as a critical habitat. We will continue to protect it,'' Eduardo Destura, representing the PRA, said in a speech before the council during Earth Day celebration rites.

Destura, who heads PRA's Planning and Evaluation also said: ''PRA, together with its partners and developers will endeavor to preserve this habitat and prove that progress and development can work hand-in-hand to protect the environment.''

Contrary to what others have been saying, Destura said the mangrove will not be part of the proposed reclamation.

''We shall maintain the integrity of the habitat. Add to that, it is being considered to be integrated to the overall development plan for eco-tourism purposes. Together with local government, we intend to enhance this habitat to make it a more suitable and sustainable sanctuary for wild birds,'' he said.

He further explained that the PRA is a government agency mandated by law to contribute to the nation's developmental goals by creating new lands through the use of scientific methods and new technology, to ensure sustainability.

In recent months, the bird sanctuary, formerly a squatters colony, had been the subject of debates in media after environmentalists fearing its removal said it would affect the thousands of migratory birds that breed in it.

The media scrutiny brought to light another issue, the increased number of bird strikes at Manila's main airports nearby. The sanctuary is within the flight path of the Ninoy Aquino Interntional Airport (NAIA).

Moreover, a thorough study by DHI Water and Environment of Denmark, an internationally-recognized firm specializing in urban flood management, water utilities, water resources, coastal engineering, and environmental, health, and safety risk assessment, refuted claims that the reclamation would bring about floods.

The study revealed that the project would actually even help mitigate the effects of flooding due to rising sea levels.

Included as key components of the reclamation are: The dredging of the Parañaque River to increase its depth by two to three meters; dredging of the Las Piñas/Zapote river mouths to increase their depth by one to two meters; removal of a sandbar near the mouth of the Las Piñas river to improve water flows during heavy rains, and construction of a 35-meter water channel gate to improve water flow.

It will also involve periodic dredging and the construction of a retention pond and a floating debris boom that will reduce the amount of garbage blocking river passageways.

The local governments of Las Piñas and Parañaque have expressed support for the project which is expected to boost the economy of, and bring thousands of jobs to, both cities.