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11 March 2009

UK birdwatchers tag Subic area as “gold mine”

The vast forest reserve spread over the former naval magazine of the US Navy in Subic Bay is a “gold mine” containing an impressive number of bird species, according to top birdwatchers from the United Kingdom.

Tim Appleton, leader of the 13-man delegation of bird tour operators and journalists from the United Kingdom, said during a visit here that Subic’s more than a hundred species of birds could be a major attraction to people who are willing to spend their money for the newest craze among tourists — birdwatching.

“Subic has a huge potential as destination for birdwatchers all over the world, particularly from America and from Europe,” Appleton gushed as his group clicked away during the Subic tour.

“Yes, this is a gold mine you have here, the birds,” he added.

Appleton’s group recently visited the Subic Bay Freeport as part of a two-week familiarization trip to some of the country’s leading bird sites like the Candaba Swamp in Pampanga, Palawan, Cebu and Subic Bay. The group encouraged foreigners, as well as Filipinos to take a more appreciative look at the local environment and to understand its value to men as well as wildlife.

“In Subic, you have a brilliant environment here and it is secured. The trees, the habitats and the birds are here. And that is more encouraging,” Appleton said.

Subic, which was recently named by the Department of Tourism (DoT) as one of the 13 premier bird-watching sites in the country, account for 15 percent of all bird species throughout the Philippines, and 29 percent of all Luzon bird species.

As a birdwatching site, Subic was recently mentioned in a book entitled “Bird Watching in the Philippines”, which was written by Carlos Libosada, Jr. The book was launched at the World Travel Mart in London last year by Tourism secretary Ace Durano.

“There are more than 185 species of birds here, some of them you can find nowhere else in the world but only here in the Philippines,” said Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza.

“When you’re in Subic Bay, the best birdwatching site would be Hill 394, or the Nabasan and Triboa areas inside the former naval magazine complex,” Arreza told Appleton and his group.

The complex is also home to some of the major nature-themed tourist parks and facilities in Subic, including Tree Top Adventure, Pamulaklakin Nature Park, Apaliin Mangrove Trail, and Jungle Joe, Zoobic Safari, and JEST Camp.

Among the most abundant species in Subic are the Philippine Bulbul, the Philippine Coucal, the Balicassiao, the Guaiabero, and the Blackish cuckoo-shrike, which are mostly found in closed canopy and open canopy forests of Subic Bay.

During their visit, the UK group likewise praised the SBMA’s efforts at conservation and environmental protection.

“If you cut the forest today, it is gone forever,” said Appleton, who is manager of the Rutland Water Nature Reserve in Great Britain. “And so would the wildlife and the (tour) operators, who are willing to bring their own clients to the Philippines to experience what we are doing here in the past two weeks.”

Those who joined Appleton in the Subic tour were: Stephen Mark Andrews of Wildwings; Stephen Rooke, director of Sunbird; Paul Alexander Dukes, operations manager of Naturetrek Ltd.; Raymund Peter Tipper, senior tour adviser and leader, Avian Adventures; David Tipling, wildlife photographer; Matthew Merritt, features editor, Bird Watching Magazine (Bauer Media); Chris Harbard, freelance writer and website manager; William Henry Thompson III, editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest; Alex Robinson, wildlife and adventure photographer; Dr. John Duncan MacDonald, senior partner/owner, WildSounds LLP; and Chicoy Enerio, Philippine tourism attache-DOT London. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: Bird tour operators and wildlife photographers from the United Kingdom have a field day at the naval magazine area of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, where some bird species found only in the Philippines make their home in closed canopy forests.

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