Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area
The Last Coastal Frontier....
The Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) is a nature reserve situated south of Manila Bay. Open to the general public, the area offers visitors a welcome respite from all the buzz and fuss of urban living, all without leaving the city.
Established in 2007 thru Presidential Proclamation No. 1412 as amended, LPPCHEA is the first critical habitat to be declared in the country. Covering around 175 hectares of wetland ecosystem, LPPCHEA consists of two (2) islands—Freedom Island and Long Island—with mangroves, ponds and lagoons, mudflats, salt marshes, and mixed beach forest all over.
On March 15, 2013 LPPCHEA was recognized as a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention because of the critical role it plays in the survival of threatened, restricted-range and congregatory bird species. It is the sixth Ramsar Site in the country to date.
An important resting and refueling stop for migratory birds using the East Asian–Australasian Migratory Flyway, LPPCHEA hosts around 41 species of migratory birds in the area, with some coming from as far as China, Japan and Siberia.
During migration season—i.e., between the months of August and April each year—the area is transformed into a feeding and resting area for migratory birds making their way to the warmer regions of the globe. During these times, the number of birds seen roosting and feeding in the area can reach as high as 5,000 heads per day according to surveys conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-National Capital Region (DENR-NCR) and Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP).
With its verdant landscape, calm lagoons, and diverse collection of wild birds, the area gives visitors a chance to commune with nature, study, or simply marvel at life’s majestic creations. Guests are introduced to a diverse variety of ecosystems as they take a trek inside the area. With more than 36 hectares of mangrove forest, by far the most extensive in Manila Bay, LPPCHEA truly lives up to its reputation as the region’s last coastal frontier.
Wild birds are the main attraction of LPPCHEA. At any given day, guests are sure to find birds nesting, feeding or flying around in the open.
Known for hosting a diverse variety of wild birds, LPPCHEA serves as a haven for our feathered friends. At present, there are around 82 wild bird species found in LPPCHEA, 41 of which are migratory. Little Egrets and Black-Crowned Night Herons, for example, are a common sighting in the area, as well as the Common Moorhen which seems to have settled permanently in one of the ponds of Freedom Island.
Of the endemic bird species often seen in LPPCHEA, it is the Philippine Duck that stands out. Listed as vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the water bird is regularly seen in the northernmost pond of Freedom Island. LPPCHEA, in fact, is the only known breeding area of the ducks in the National Capital Region (NCR). Other endemic species which regard LPPCHEA as their home are the Philippine Bulbul and the Colasisi.
Other birds that has attracted the attention of birders from all over are the endangered Chinese Egret, Common Greenshank, and Black-Winged Stilts. Meanwhile, some bird enthusiasts have reported even seeing rare species such as the Pied Avocet, Siberian Ruby-Throat and Grey-Tailed Tattler in the area.
Another object of interest for nature lovers in LPPCHEA is its mangrove forest – the thickest and most diverse among the remaining mangrove areas within Manila Bay.
Mangroves are salt-tolerant trees adapted to living in salt and brackish water conditions. Mangrove forests are critical spawning grounds, nursery, feeding and temporary shelter areas, not only to fishes but other wild life species as well. Mangrove forests also act as natural barriers. In the case of LPPCHEA, it serves as protection of the coastal communities of Las Piñas and Parañaque from storm surges and high tide.
There are at present eleven (11) mangrove species growing in the area. These are the Bungalon, Bakauan Babae, Bakauan Bato (or Bangkau in Cebuano), Pototan, Kolasi, Pagatpat, Banalo, Tabigi, Saging-saging, Buta-buta and Nilad. DENR-NCR has recently introduced the Nilad tree in the area on an experimental basis. Noted for its historical significance, the Nilad tree is said to be the origin of the name for Manila. According to some accounts, the term “Maynila” is a contraction of “may nilad”, meaning a place where Nilad grows. If the experiment proves successful enough though, the DENR plans to propagate the species to other parts of Manila Bay and contribute to its rehabilitation.
Mudflats, Ponds, Lagoons, and Salt Marshes
Taken for granted and regarded as useless “burak”, the mudflats of LPPCHEA are nonetheless an attraction to, albeit, an specific set of visitors, the scientific researchers. LPPCHEA has 114 hectares of mudflats which serve as feeding grounds for wild birds because of the presence of molluscs and other bottom-dwelling small aquatic animals. As the water recede during low tide, it exposes small invertebrates and macrobenthic organisms that serve as food for the birds and other animals. Many birds could be observed during low tides in the early morning and late afternoon.
A trek to the three adjoining ponds of Freedom Island is also a must, as each hosts a particular wild bird and mangrove species. The Common Moorhen, Philippine Duck, and White-Collared Kingfisher, for example, are known residents. The North and South lagoons, on the other hand, are frequented by Terns, Egrets, and Herons.
Still another area worth visiting are the salt marshes of LPPCHEA. Noted for its unique ecosystem, salt marshes play an important role in the aquatic food web and are generally indicative of the health of coastal area. Also, because of the high saline content of the soil in this area, only a limited number of salt-tolerant species of herbs, grasses, and low shrubs grow in salt marshes, making it an interesting subject for researchers. Salt marshes also help in protecting shorelines from erosion by buffering wave action and trapping sediments.
(LPPCHEA is a protected area. For those who are interested in visiting the bird sanctuary, please contact the Conservation and Development Division at 435-2509)