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PHL gears up for new Ramsar bid

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Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) plans to nominate Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) for inclusion in the Ramsar list of wetlands placed under conservation and sustainable use worldwide.

DENR said that LPPCHEA's inclusion in Ramsar List would help boost efforts to protect such wetland from climate change, pollution and other threats.

The Ramsar List is a listing of wetlands worldwide with international importance for conservation and sustainable utilization as provided for in an inter-governmental treaty signed by the Philippines and other countries during a convention in Ramsar, Iran in 1971.

"We're already preparing to push the bid for another Philippine Ramsar site," said Protected Areas and Wildlife Management Service chief Donna Gordove from DENR's National Capital Region office which is attending to the matter.

The Philippines' Ramsar sites are Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Cebu province, Naujan Lake National Park in Oriental Mindoro province as well as Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park and Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Mindanao.

Last month, DENR announced its plan to nominate as another Ramsar site Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) in Palawan province.

PPUR emerged as one of the winners in the New Seven Wonders of Nature global search that ended in 2011.

"International recognition is conferred upon wetlands included in the Ramsar List," Gordove said.

Inclusion in the list also manifests commitment of countries concerned to undertake what's necessary for ensuring the ecological character of respective wetlands.

The Ramsar Convention defines wetlands as "areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters."
LLPCHEA is along Manila Bay and is the only one of its kind in Metro Manila, covering at present about 175 hectares of mangroves and mudflats in Freedom Island and Long Island.

Gordove said LLPCHEA is Metro Manila's remaining relatively intact wetland ecosystem.

"It's also Metro Manila's sole breeding area for wild birds," she said.

She expressed concern on Philippine Reclamation Authority's planned reclamation projects along Manila Bay, saying it could disrupt natural tidal flow in that water body and affect the eco-system in LPPCHEA.

"We're looking into conducting a scientific study on the matter," she said.

DENR considers LPPCHEA a wetland of global ecological importance, noting this area hosts at least one percent of the Greenshank bird population and 10 percent of the Black-winged stilt bird population within the East Asian Flyway.

LLPCHEA also supports over 5,000 birds of more than 27 species, DENR said.

"Most of the birds can be found on Freedom Island," Gordove said.

The endangered Chinese egret is among birds seen in LPPCHEA, DENR said.

"Birds flock to LLPCHEA since food for these species can be found in the nutrient-rich mudflats there," Gordove said.

Mudflats are coastal wetlands that are formed when tides or rivers deposit mud.

DENR reported LPPCHEA's mudflats at present cover about 114 hectares.

"We hope LLPCHEA can be recognized not only as a Ramsar site but established as a flyway path as well," Gordove said.

Such will enable authorities to better manage migratory bird resources there.

DENR reported that in the 2004 Asian Waterfowl Census, LLPCHEA ranked second among areas with the most number of individual birds in the Philippines.

"Diversity of avifaunal resource and presence of globally important species indicate ecological soundness of an area - birds serve as barometers of this and are always included in ecological assessments," DENR said.

Gordove said DENR-NCR is coordinating with the department's Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) on the bid to nominate LPPCHEA as a Ramsar site.

PAWB is the Philippine national administrative authority of the Ramsar Convention.

Through PAWB, the Philippines nominates its own sites for possible inclusion in the Ramsar List.

To help protect LPPCHEA, Gordove said DENR-NCR would continue expanding mangrove areas there.

"We're identifying LPPCHEA locations where additional mangrove species can be planted," she said.

DENR earlier reported LPPCHEA's mangrove area covers about 28 hectares.

Gordove said mangroves are useful since these serve as roosting grounds for birds.

She said mangroves also help retain LPPCHEA's ecological integrity since these prevent soil erosion and serve as a natural filter.

Such mangroves likewise protect coastal areas from sea water surges, she said.

"Mangroves also act as carbon sinks," she said.

Carbon sinks are natural or artificial reservoirs where carbon is stored so these help reduce concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.
Experts earlier identified CO2 as among greenhouse gases driving climate change.

Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo established LPPCHEA in 2007 through Presidential Proclamation 1412.

In 2008, she also issued Proclamation 1412-A creating Manila Bay Critical Habitat Management Council.

The council is tasked with preparing and implementing the critical habitat management plan for the area and its surroundings.

By Catherine J.Teves-PNA




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