“Millions of birders around the world set out to catch a rare glimpse of plumage, a bold stroke of color, or to hear an unusual song—and they’re changing the face of tourism,” said US-based journalist Brandon Withrow.
Determined birders are ornithological birding aficionados, compelled to travel long distances by their love of spotting a rare species. In fact, The Daily Beast, US-based news website, said that birders are part of a growing multi-billion dollar ecotourism industry. And birding is also part of a practical global conservation effort to help both birds and humans thrive.
From November 3 to November 5, 2023, Puerto Princesa City gathered international and national bird photographers to the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) 6th International Bird Photography Race, one of the activities of this year’s Subaraw Biodiversity Festival.
After a three-year hiatus, the event is back with 25 teams and each team is composed of two to three members, gathering birders from different parts of the country and abroad while highlighting the city’s endemic birds and wildlife.
Since 2015, national and international bird photographers have started to notice our city as an emerging birding destination. Atty. Carlo B. Gomez, the City Environment and Natural Resources Officer (City ENRO) and the founder of PPUR International Bird Photography Race, said that Puerto Princesa is among the few cities in the country where birds can be easily found, thus, he pushed that this biodiversity-related event become regular part of the annual Subaraw Biodiversity Festival eight years ago.
This year’s race was a reverberating triumph. In just one weekend, bird photographers documented more than 160 bird species, an evidence of the flourishing bird habitats in Puerto Princesa. Also, out of the 27 bird species endemic to Palawan, 23 were captured by this year’s race participants.
Among the city’s efforts that supports birds, wildlife and its natural environment includes Pista Y Ang Cagueban (PYAC) also known as “Feast of the Forest” a yearly tree-planting activity and Love Affair With Nature (LAWN), a yearly mangrove-planting activity, institutionalized through the passage of local ordinances.
Both PYAC and LAWN are annual events attracting people from all walks of life to actively participate in the greening of Puerto Princesa. The initiatives were instrumental in making the City a “Hall of Fame” awardee as the “Cleanest and Greenest City in the Philippines.” This manifests the interest and love of Puerto Princesans to conserve the natural resources, and is a proof of the Community Engagement in environmental endeavors.
Aside from its PYAC and LAWN, the city’s greening efforts has been supplemented and fortified by its urban forestry program that started in 2016. In implementing this program, the City ENRO focused on planting endemic, native or fruiting trees that supports biodiversity and wildlife.
These trees include Inyam, Banaba, Narra, Bakawan Gubat, Agoho, Alalod, Balayong, Batino, Bignay, Bogo, Burawis, Dao, Kasoy, Langka, Malabagtik, Palawan Mangkono, Mulawin, Pangi, Pasi, Putian, Red Nato, Sahing, Siar, Tanabag, White Nato, among others.
One of the trees considered in the city’s greening activities is Narra, which is the national tree. Its leaves and flowers are fragrant and attract plenty of insects for pollination. Its fruit also attracts birds, rodents, and other small mammals on the rainforest floor.
Native trees are linked to the well-being of the insects, birds and wildlife species that naturally occur in an area, thus it is important to consider the selection of native trees that support wildlife and biodiversity like mammals, avian species, bees and others that form part of the biodiversity.
Also, the City ENRO’s Wildlife Management Division headed by Environmental Management Specialist II Myla Adriano has dedicated staff who are taking care of their existing birding sites and facilities like bird hides, bird baths, etc. They also conduct regular bird assessment within strategic sites within the city. Some of the Wildlife Division staff like Randy Tibor, Alonzo Padon, and company are admirable and skilled bird guides who catered to both national and international bird photographers during their birding activities.
Birding is also a multi-million dollar industry in Central and South American countries which will potentially significantly contribute to the local economy.
Because of the City’s emergence as a birding destination, the Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines (WPBB) has nominated Puerto Princesa as the Birding Capital of the Philippines.