Thursday, March 21, 2013

Coastal Lagoon Level-Up!

The Coastal Lagoon or the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) is the last remaining wetlands in Metro Manila. After the neighboring mudflats and wetlands have been reclaimed and converted into the Mall of Asia, the soon-to-open casino complex, condominiums, and other establishments, the LPPCHEA is the last place in the Metro that houses mangrovesas well as a lot of bird species.

Aside from being the place where most of the city's garbage accumulates, the Coastal Lagoon also houses 47 migratory bird species which flock to the area during the migration season. Among these are Great Egrets, Black-winged Stilts, Asian Golden-Plovers, Whiskered Terns, the vulnerable Chinese Egret, and more. 

The beach in the LPPCHEA. Thanks to the clean-up efforts of different
groups, the garbage is being cleared revealing the sand underneath.

Yet many migratory birds find it a suitable habitat during the
wintering months.

Plans of reclaiming the LPPCHEA have been a major concern not only for birdwatchers but for other conservation groups as well as some officials of the local government who understand and value the importance of the place. 

Just last March 15, the LPPCHEA was officially included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, a monumental milestone in conserving and saving the site. It is the 6th site to be included in the list joining the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Mindanao (included in November 1999), the Naujan Lake Natural Park in Oriental Mindoro (November 1999), the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Cebu (July 1994), the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan (June 2012), and the Tubbataha Reefs National Park in the Sulu Sea (November 1999.)

The site was actually designated as a Critical Habitat through a Presidential Proclamation in 2007 but this does not seem to serve as any "protection" from threats of reclamation stemming from the Philippine Reclamation Authority. Hopefully, the government will now open its eyes to the real significance of the LPPCHEA as an important natural heritage the country can be proud of. The international conservation community has seen it, our local conservation organizations have always seen it... why can't our government?

Deeper than the beauty of the Manila Bay sunset is a critical habitat
that needs the governments support to conserve it.

Of course, this inclusion in the Ramsar List would not be possible without the efforts from our dedicated friends from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) who have worked hard to get this designation for LPPCHEA. Hopefully, the upper echelons of the department will see this with the same perspective they have and support all efforts to conserve the area. After all, they are the ones with the decision-making powers.

Now, the next question is: will the Philippine government see the true value and importance of LPPCHEA or will it continue to turn a blind eye and choose to see profit and development disguised through destruction? Will they listen this time? I hope so.

Birdwatchers on the "Toxic Beach" of LPPCHEA

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