The Department of Tourism (DOT) recently welcomed a birdwatching delegation, led by two of the United Kingdom’s (UK) Members of Parliament (MP) and renowned birders, Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke QC, Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Hon. Mark Pritchard MP, Chairperson of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).
“We have such a strong birdwatching market in the UK that even esteemed birders from the Parliament are raring to see our endemic species,” said Tourism Secretary Ace Durano.
The MPs were brought to the Nabasan Trail and Naval Magazine Trail in Subic and the Candaba Swamp and Wildlife Reserve in Pampanga where they observed a total of 80 birds, 19 endemic, while 3 were only “heard” as attested by the group’s bird sound recording technician.
Aside from the rare Philippine Duck, some notable sightings of endemic birds included, the Philippine Serpent-Eagle, the Philippine Falconet, the White-eared Brown Dove, the Sooty Woodpecker and the Coleto.
MP Pritchard said he plans to organize a birdwatching tour once again with the rest of the British Parliamentarians and their spouses as soon as he got back to his country.
In the past year, tourists and distinguished birding groups, which consisted of top tour operators, media members and bird sound recording artists also visited the country’s top birder’s sites such as the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Cebu, Lion’s Cave in Palawan, Balanga City Wetland Park in Bataan, and Villa Escudero in Quezon.
The first group, the British Bird Tour Operators and Media Familiarization Trip, spotted 235 brid species spread out in Pampanga, Cebu, Palawan and Zambales. The trip spurred the group’s repeat visit to the country, to include other sites comprised of Quezon, Bohol and Laguna. In their second visit, the group spotted a total of 164 species, prompting the group to rate the country’s bird species excellent in terms of quality of birds, habitat and range.
Another noted group to visit the country was the British-based Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s (WWT) fact-finding team. The WWT studied four wetlands that are being conserved as birdwatching sites and possible water resource. The exploration was part of the WWT Patron Partnership Program signed by the London Wetland Center and the DOT during the international launch of the country as a premiere birdwatching site in the World Travel Mart held in London. The World Travel Mart is an annual business-to-busioness event that gathers the top tourism stakeholders from UK and the world.
The team extended its expertise in preserving these areas, involving local communities in conservation and improving tourism experience of visiting birders. The four areas include, Pampanga’s Candaba Swamp and Wildlife Reserve, Balanga’s Wetland Park, Cebu’s Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, and Las Pinas-Paranaque’s Critical Habitat and Eco-tourism Zone.
“Our intensive familiarization trips have resulted in the country’s inclusion in brochures and packages of UK’s biggest bird tour operators,” said Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque, Jr., Tourism Planning and Promotions.
Rockjumper Birding Tours, Ornitholidays, Birdseekers, Nature Trek, Wild Wings and Birdquest are just some of the major tour operators which have added the Philippines in their program and brochures as one of the world’s premier birdwatching sites, according to Jarque.the country also gained recognition from the British Birdwatching community when the Cebu Flowerpecker received the Bird Life Species Champion award in the British Birdwatching Fair 2009 in Oakham, Rutland, UK.
Known as the ‘Woodstock of Birders,’ the British Birdwatching Fair is an exclusive event where all sectors in birdwatching and wildlife conservation from all over the world gather.
The DOT also came out with a comprehensive initial guide entitled, Birdwatching in the Philippines, which was followed by a second volume, which featured more endemic species and sites targeted to the hard-core birders.
The new birding destinations include Pagudpud, the Cordilleras, Tuguegarao, Laguna, Occidental Mindoro, Palawan, Camarines Sur, Negros Occidental Bohol, Dumaguete, Samar, Zamboanga, Bukidnon, and Agusan del Sur.
A birdwatching video was likewise filmed for use during fairs and conventions in the international Birdwatching community. Entitled Avian Archipelago, the video features 27 birding sites included in the guide books.
“The gains have far exceeded our expectations considering that we are new to the birdwatching community,” added Durano.
Stanie Soriano, Corporate Relations Manager of Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation, further shared that the country’s active participation in bird fairs have also propelled the image of our country, “Our books, CDs, and flyers on the tourism product are indeed giving us the mileage. Plus, the DOT booth is always a crowd-drawer with our festive mood and warm reception in birding conventions.”