Bird sanctuary closure ‘likely,’ DoT chief saysBy Paolo G. Montecillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MACTAN, Cebu—The government is studying the risks involved in preserving a bird sanctuary near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), amid concerns raised by the country’s top flag carrier over passenger safety.
Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez this week said an inter-agency study was now underway to determine whether to lift the bird sanctuary status of the small mangrove forest beside Coastal Road in Las Piñas.
The study on the bird sanctuary is being done by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
“Knowing the DOTC, if there is any doubt at all, they will err on the side of caution on this case,” Jimenez said, adding that the closure of the bird sanctuary was likely.
He said, however, that the welfare of the wildlife at the sanctuary would also be considered.
At the same time, Jimenez stressed that the safety of passengers was “paramount.”
“There is a current study to evaluate the reality, or lack of it, of the claim that bird strikes can come out of the bird sanctuary,” Jimenez told reporters Tuesday evening.
“If it is established that there is a risk, it will be closed and transferred immediately,” he said.
About 5,000 migratory birds can be seen at the mangrove forest every day.
The government study comes after Philippine Airlines (PAL) president Ramon S. Ang said the bird sanctuary significantly increased the chances of bird strikes at Naia, the country’s busiest airport.
Last week, several ducks were sucked into the engine of a PAL Airbus A320 plane leaving for Tacloban.
The plane had to abort its takeoff, and fortunately, no one was hurt.
Ang said the presence of the bird sanctuary near the airport would be enough for the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) not to upgrade the Philippines to Category 1 status—reflecting compliance with international aviation safety standards.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Asian Carriers’ Conference (ACC), Jimenez said bird strikes, which can cause damage to plane engines and other crucial aircraft parts, can happen in any airport, regardless of location.
“But there’s a claim that the position of the bird sanctuary is a regular threat,” he said.
“There’s been a lot of exaggeration surrounding the fate of the migratory birds at the sanctuary. But there are modern techniques that can be used to transfer the birds and that is what will most likely happen,” he added.
The mangrove forest was declared a bird sanctuary in 2007 by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
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