MANILA, March 15, 2004 (STAR) By Victoria Mones - Bani town in Pangasinan province is offering visitors a one-of-a-kind attraction – boardwalking on water.

The boardwalk is a 300-meter structure constructed on the front periphery of the Marine Protected Area I (MPA I) located at Sitio Abunciang, San Miguel, Bani, Pangasinan. Now one of the province’s newest tourist spots, the MPA is a mangrove forest with a total area of 42 hectares. The MPA is composed of a sanctuary covering about 37 hectares, and a five-hectare fishery reserve. About 10 mangrove species are found in the area. It is also home to some 20 species of endemic and migratory birds. The forest also serves as breeding ground of marine organisms, fishes and crustaceans.

The boardwalk was built to allow environmental enthusiasts to move around the mangrove forest and watch different kinds of birds at close range. It was constructed through the joint initiative of the local government of Bani and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources - Fisheries Resource Management Project (BFAR - FRMP). Envisioned by Mayor Gabriel Navarro as a way to boost the town’s tourism, the boardwalk was an offshoot of the community effort towards coastal resource management.

The MPA I which was declared as a bird sanctuary in 2001, is an ideal eco-tourism destination for bird watchers and environmental enthusiasts. Among the birds that can be spotted are the purple heron, rufous night heron, Asian golden plover, common snipe and Philippine wild duck. They are usually seen in the area from December to June. They fly in from as far as China to escape the winter season.

Visitors claim that the trees look abloom with white flowers during certain months because thousands of white birds are perched on treetops. Wild ducks can also be observed doing their daily bathing and food hunting.

The waters of MPA I teems with various fishes such as siganids, spadefish and grouper, as well as with other marine life like prawn, shrimp, oyster and mudcrab.

Since it was declared as a protected area, MPA has not only attracted winged and finned creatures in the area. The rich fish and bird diversity has also invited an increasing number of foreign and local tourists every year.

Because of the commendable management of MPA, it has also attracted recognition since its establishment. The MPA, in fact, has won for the town of Bani the Clean and Green Award for two consecutive years during the province-wide Linis Dayat Program in 2000 and 2001. The boardwalk was also constructed from the prize money that the town received nearly two years ago in the search for Cleanest Coastal Municipality by BFAR FRMP.

The Fisheries Resource Management Project is being implemented by BFAR in 18 priority bays of 11 regions, and addresses the critical issues of fisheries depletion and persistent poverty among municipal fisherfolk. In Region I, FRMP assisted in the establishment of the mangrove forest in Tambac Bay in Bani.

For those who are interested to visit the area, trips may be arranged through the Office of the Municipal Agriculturist, Bani, Pangasinan, tel. no. (075) 5532401 or 5532010, or through the BFAR Regional Office I, San Fernando City, tel. no. (072) 7004365 or 7004127.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved