With holidays and long weekends aplenty in Metro Manila, out of town excursions can be too costly if taken too often. As such, nearby destinations are always welcome for city folk, especially those with a feel of getting away from it all.
One possibility for the coming holidays especially is the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA), an urban sanctuary where visitors can escape the hustle and bustle of the metropolis and enjoy being one with nature.
The site is a 175- hectare nature reserve situated south of Manila Bay. Considered the “last natural bastion” in Metro Manila, the area is filled with varied flora and fauna, including more than 80 bird species, some of which come from as far away as Siberia, and 11 mangrove trees species.
Senator Cynthia Villar, who has been leading the fight to protect and preserve the urban sanctuary, is now promoting the concept “voluntourism” to increase awareness of this natural oasis amidst a highly urbanized area.
“Apart from having leisurely walks along the coast and getting the chance to see colorful birds, families, students and communities can also do other activities such as coastal cleanups and tree-planting activities at the wetland park,” she said.
Villar stressed that park is a critical site that needs special protection especially from man-made threats. “Not only is it home to various species of birds, including the endangered Black-Winged Stilt, Chinese Egret and the Philippine Duck, the area also serves as first-line of defense against storm surges and other natural disasters.”
LPPCHEA also boasts of 36 hectares of mangrove forest, the thickest and most diverse among the remaining mangrove areas in Manila Bay. There are currently 11 mangrove species growing in the area.
“These mangroves serve as spawning and nursery grounds for coastal fishes. The more mangroves we have, the fish population in the area, thus providing a vital source of livelihood for more than 300,000 fisherfolk in Manila Bay,” Villar said. Apart from mangroves, Villar also opened a bambusetum or a bamboo museum inside the park.
In 2013, LPPCHEA was included as one of the world’s most important wetlands in the world by the Ramsar Convention. Other world- renowned sites in the Philippines that made it in the list include the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park in Sulu and the Underground River in Palawan.
Villar continues to organize site visits, cleanups and tree-planting activities in LPPCHEA. Recently, she hosted a tour and bird watching activity for the participants of the 12th Session of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals or CMS-COP12. As chair of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, presented to the delegates the conservation efforts at the wetland park, including the facilities that now make visiting the park more convenient.
“After successfully protecting this area from various threats, including reclamation, we are now working to letting other people see and experience its natural biodiversity as an eco-tourism destination,” Villar ended.
For more information on LPPCHEA, call DENR-NCR at (02) 435-2410.