Villar leads groundbreaking of Wetland Center

Sen. Cynthia Villar led the groundbreaking ceremonies which sets into motion the construction of the Wetland Center at the Las Pinas-Paranaque Wetland Park.

The groundbreaking also marks World Wetlands Day, an annual celebration held on February 2 to commemorate the day the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was adopted in 1971. This year's theme is Wetlands and Climate Change.

"It is only fitting that we mark this special day with the groundbreaking for the facility that will make visiting the Las Pinas-Paranaque Wetland Park, the only Ramsar site in the country situated in an urban setting, more convenient and educational," Villar said.

The wetland center, which is a donation from the Villar Family, will house a restaurant, a training center, a museum, a souvenir shop and a satellite office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Villar, chair of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, said that the rise of the wetland center boosts education and conservation programs that will raise awareness on the importance of wetlands in general.

The175-hectare Las Pinas-Paranaque Wetland Park is a Wetland of International Importance as declared by the Ramsar Convention for its critical role in the survival of threatened, restricted-range and congregatory bird species.

One percent of the remaining black stilts can be found here, or 1,000 of the remaining 100,000 in the world.

The wetland ecosystem is also home and known breeding area of Philippine ducks, a vulnerable species as listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Chinese egret, Common greenshank, and Black-winged stilts are also found here along with 82 other wild bird species coming from as far as China, Japan and Siberia.

It has 30 hectares of mangrove forest, accepted as the thickest and most diverse in Manila Bay. To date, 11 species of mangroves are growing in the area. It is also a declared protected area under Republic Act 11038 or the law expanding the National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS).

Aside from this wetland, six other Ramsar sites are found in the Philippines, namely: 1. the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan; 2. the Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park in Sulu; 3. the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Agusan del Sur; 4. the Naujan Lake National Park in Oriental Mindoro; 5. the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Cebu; and 6. the Negros Occidental Coastal Wetlands Conservation Area in Negros Occidental.

"This year's World Wetlands Day theme stresses the need to include the conservation of wetlands as a strategy to mitigate the effects of climate change. For one, natural features of wetlands such as mangrove trees serve as barriers that protect communities against storm surges and flooding. Surely, this should be a consideration in deciding against reclamation projects that threaten our wetlands," Villar said.

Villar has been in the forefront of the campaign to conserve and promote the the Las Pinas-Paranaque Wetland Park. She regularly conducts clean up, tree planting, and bird watching activities in the area together with representatives from government and private organizations, residents and students.

Villar's partners in this project include the Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance (Villar SIPAG), DENR- National Capital Region, DENR - Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), National Solid Waste Management Commission, Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, DENR- Manila Bay Coordinating Office, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Region 4-A, Department of Public Works and Highways, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Bureau of Fire Protection - Las Pinas City, City Government of Las PiAas, City Government of ParaAaque, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Coast Guard Auxilliary NCR - Luzon, Philippine Navy, Philippine Red Cross - Las PiAas Subchapter, PNP Maritime Group, Manila Bay SUNSET Partnership Program Incorporated, Maynilad, CAVITEX - CARE (Cavitex Advocates for the Restoration of the Environment), Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, Center for Environmental Concerns, Alliance for Stewardship and Authentic Progress, Ministry of Ecology - Archdiocese of Manila, Ecowaste Coalition, Earth Island Institute, Greenpeace Philippines, Mother Earth Foundation, Oceana Philippines, Save our Shores, Save Philippine Seas, Save Freedom Island Movement, Wetlands International, Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, Divine Light Academy, Southville International School and Colleges, and Department of Education Schools Division of Las PiAas and Paranaque.

Source: Senate of the Philippines