VIEW  FROM  THE  PALACE:  VISIT TO  THE  BIRDS  OF  THE  CANDABA  SWAMP 

[PHOTO AT LEFT - Bird watchers, led by Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo, observe migratory birds flying over 70 hectares of wetlands in Candaba, Pampanga yesterday. Photo by ERNIE PEÑAREDONDO]

MANILA, JANUARY 16, 2008  (OPS, MALACANANG) by IGNACIO BUNYE - Candaba’s first Ibon-Ebon festival (View from the Palace - For the week ending January 13, 2008)

At the invitation of Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo and his wife Lani, my undersecretary, Martin ‘Tinton’ Crisostomo and I, with some Malacanang reporters in tow, motored to the Candaba bird reservation last Saturday. We left Manila at 8 a.m. and reached Mayor Pelayo’s birdwatching resthouse around 10 a.m. There we met Dutch Ambassador Robert Brinks, Michael Yu, president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, Alain Pascua, president of KAAKBAY, other birdwatchers, (some as young as 9) and Pampanga-based media.

After snacks of hot coffee and pan de sal, we walked along a muddy and slippery elevated round in the middle of the swamp unmindful of the drizzle. The tree-lined road was littered with white feathers (from egrets no doubt) and droppings. Our guide said that the tree branches would droop as the egrets come to roost towards sunset and from a distance, the trees would appear to be covered with snow. Until then, I could not see any bird, except for a few sparrows which I could watch even from my backyard. I began to wonder if I had traveled in vain. Then all of a sudden, as if alerted to our presence, the birds suddenly rose from the ground. Watching approximately 17,000 birds, numbering 40 species, simultaneously take off is simply awesome.

In the early 80’s, the 32,000-hectare Candaba swamp, which lies in the path of migratory birds from Alaska, Russia, Japan, Korea and China, is said to have been visited by even more birds. A local resident said the skies darkened as the birds, then estimated at 100,000, took to the air. But clearing of the natural habitat, draining of water, hunting and poaching contributed to the rapid decline in bird population.

In 2004, Mayor Pelayo carved out a 70-hectare bird reservation and passed a municipal ordinance banning hunting in the Candaba swamp. Soon he persuaded, other Pampanga mayors to pass a similar ordinance until the ban was adopted in the whole province of Pampanga. In 2006, bird watchers reported a bird population of 11,000 and the increasing trend has been observed since then. Bird watchers have observed 90 different bird species in the reserve, half of which are migratory.

A beautiful documentary, prepared by KAAKBAY, entitled “Wings in the Water: The Birds in Candaba Swamp” describes the Candaba Swamp as an important staging and wintering area for migratory birds from October up to April of every year.

On February 1 and 2 this year, Candaba will host the first annual Ibon-Ebon Festival.

If you are up to it, all you need is a pair of binoculars, good rubber shoes, broad brimmed hat, a pencil and a notebook to record your sightings. You will most likely encounter Great Egrets, Eurasian wigeons, garganeys, northern pintails, wandering whistling ducks, northern shovelers, common pochards, tufted ducks and purple swamphens.

*****

If business is the engine of growth, then we can expect 2008 to be an even better year than 2007. This assessment is based on the findings of the global audit and accounting firm Grant Thornton International, which ranked the Philippines, together with India, as the countries with the most number of optimistic businessmen for 2008.

According to Grant Thornton’s Philippine associate, Punongbayan and Araullo (P &A), the survey covered 34 countries.

According to the business optimism survey, the top 10 countries were as follows: Philippines and India (tied at 95), Singapore (84), Hong Kong (82), Poland (78), Australia and China (tied at 77), South Africa (75) and Denmark (74).

What were the factors that could have contributed to this optimism for the Philippines?

Greg Navarro, managing partner of Punongbayan and Araullo, cites the following:

a.) government’s efforts at fiscal discipline and in enhancing the country’s appeal to investors. b.) solid economic growth numbers fueled by industry and services. c.) rapid expansion of the BPO industry. 5.) keen interest in the resurgent mining industry. 5.) peso as one of the best performing currencies in Asia. 6.) benign inflation rate.

*****

Speaking of business process outsourcing (BPO), the Nestle Group has chosen the Philippines as the center for its backroom operation. The Philippines will serve the financial and employee service requirements of Nestle companies in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and other Asian countries.

BPO has come a long way since 2001 when started with purely call center operations. Now, we are into financial analysis, design engineering, animation and other high value operations. This trend is certainly a vote of confidence for our homegrown talents.

*****

Have you ever wondered why it is very difficult to find welders?

The simple reason is that thousands of our best welders are now employed by Hanjin shipyards in Redondo Peninsula in Zambales. The fourth largest shipbuilding facility in the world expects to build 60 ships a year, five ships a month, and that requires a lot of welders. And we are just talking of Zambales. Wait till Hanjin opens its shipbuilding facility in Cagayan de Oro City. This week, President Arroyo witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Hanjin Heavy Industries and the Phividec Industrial Authority for the construction of a $ 2 billion shipbuilding complex.

TESDA will have its hands full trying to train the manpower needed for such huge complex let alone supply the needs of the construction industry.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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