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DOT includes Balanga City among bird-watching sites in the country

Thursday, July 31, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]

FEATURE

BALANGA City, Bataan: Balanga City was approved and included as one of the bird watching sites in the country that will be promoted worldwide, City Mayor Jose Enrique Garcia 3rd announced Monday.

The mayor said that an inspection team arrived in Balanga City recently and visited the seaside villages of Tortugas, Puerto Rivas Ibaba and Sibacan. The team was composed of officials from the Department of Tourism, tour operators and the Wild Birds Club of the Philippines.

Garcia said DOT is packaging a 22-day bird watching activity for tourists in 12 sites in the Philippines for $10,000 per person, inclusive of airfare and board and lodging. The sites are divided into clusters with Balanga City in the group composed of Subic and Candaba Swamp in Pampanga.

Stanie Soriano, manager of DOT’s Corporate Relations Department, said that Balanga City would be in the first volume of their Bird watching Guidebook that will be ready in time for advertising in London by November this year.

“It will be a worldwide promotion that DOT will undertake and it will begin with the production of the guidebook to be out by September this year to show foreign tourists various bird watching destinations in the country, Balanga City included,” she said.

Other bird watching sites are the Paranaque Critical Habitat in Las Piñas, Mount Palay-Palay National Park in Ternate, Cavite; Villa Escudero in Laguna, Nug-As Forest in Alcoy and Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, both in Cebu; Philippine Eagle Center in Davao, Candaba Swamp in Pampanga, Subic Bay in Olongapo City, Hundred Islands National Park in Alaminos and Mangrove Marine Protected Area I in Bani, both in Pangasinan; and Rasa Island and Puerto Princesa Subteranean River National Park, in Palawan.

Soriano said that DOT is focusing on bird watching this year under its Adventure Philippines Campaign.

Dr. Joey Soriano, a member of the Wild Birds Club, said the proposed bird sanctuary in Balanga City will have an area of about 100 hectares consisting of mad flat (exposed portions of the seashore where birds feed), viewing deck, heights and picnic huts.

“Bird watching in the Philippines has a bright prospect because there are birds here that are endemic in given areas that will attract tourists from England, Germany, United States, Scotland and South East Asian countries like Singapore, Thailand and Japan,” the psychiatrist said.

He said that foreign tourists in groups of five to ten spend from $5,000 to $7,000 each in bird watching activities. The doctor said small groups are preferred so as not to drive away the birds.

Rudy de Mesa, administrator of the Balanga City government, said the bird sanctuary is under the Bay Park project of City Mayor Joet Garcia. “Like President Arroyo, our mayor has a 10-point agenda, the Bay Park included,” he said.

Elsa Ilagan, city-planning officer, said initial funding for the Bay Park is P30 million with P15 million coming from the city government and P15 million to be sourced from the Philippine Tourism Authority or the DOT itself.

The planning officer said the construction of a viewing deck that plays an important role in bird watching was budgeted for P5 million. -- Ernie B. Esconde

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