Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Written for Manila Today

Wildlife preservation is often done outside Metro Manila. And this is not surprising since there’s almost nothing to preserve in the country’s premier urban jungle. Well, almost. Thanks to environment activism, community engagement, and geographical remoteness, there are still patches of precious green habitats in Metro Manila that we can visit, enjoy, and preserve for the next generation. These wildlife sanctuaries give us a glimpse of the long lost green charm of Metro Manila. We are reminded too of the natural beauty and geographical treasures of the region which made it easy for our former rulers and leaders to declare it the nation’s capital. But these habitats are all under threat today. Urban pollution, development aggression, and bad governance are causing the destruction of these habitats. If we want to restore these green spaces, then we need to act now. Our first duty is to spread awareness about these last surviving environment treasures. We also need to promote volunteerism and activism among Metro Manila residents. For those who need more convincing because they are not impressed with the views of tree hugggers and animal lovers, we should highlight the link of a healthy ecosystem and disaster preparation. There is a growing interest in environmentalism today and young people are encouraged to contribute in the effort either by volunteering in the provinces or by changing their dirty lifestyles. We should add that Metro Manila continues to inhabit a space where wildlife areas still exist and where activism can still make a big difference in making our habitats clean, safe, and livable. In other words, there’s still hope for Metro Manila, even for Pasig River.

Navotas Mangrove

Navotas is famous for its fishport; but it can also boast that it hosts an important green habitat that is now seldom seen in the coastal areas of Manila Bay. The mangrove area in Sitio Pulo in Navotas is probably the oldest existing natural mangrove park in Metro Manila. Officially named as Barangay Tanza’s Marine Tree Park, the Navotas Mangrove cradles several bird and fish species aside from protecting the city from storm surges. The mangrove is also keeping a tiny secret that can make Manila envious: A Nilad mangrove specie is thriving there. Nilad mangroves were once common in Manila (hence the name Maynila) and these mangroves were the original ‘greenbelt’ that covered the coastal areas of the region. Today, a Nilad tree can be seen only at Manila Zoo, and now we know, inside the Navotas Mangrove area. While it is laudable that Barangay Tanza has declared Sitio Pulo as a marine park, it is tragic that a so-called sanitary landfill (read: dumpsite) is allowed to exist near the island. In fact, garbage is already flooding several areas of the mangrove park. Despite continuous coastal cleanups, these efforts would be rendered useless as long as the Camanava landfill is operating near the mangrove park.

Batasan River in Malabon

Near Navotas Mangrove is Batasan River, the cleanest river in Metro Manila (apologies to Marikina River). Malabon is notorious because of Tullahan River, one of the dirtiest waters in the world. But unknown to many, the clear waters of Batasan River is also flowing in Malabon. From the polluted waters of Tangos, made blacker by mini-shipyards, one can access a narrow channel that runs through the green waters of Batasan River. The scenery is made more beautiful and refreshing by the mangroves that line the river. The experience is like riding a boat along Loboc River in Bohol but in this case the river is in Malabon which is just 20 minutes away from Monumento in Caloocan. Some mangroves have been converted already into fish pens but this can be remedied by planting more trees along the river. Similar to Navotas Mangrove, the immediate threat to Batasan River is the landfill located near the mouth of the river. A brown patch of garbage hill is already visible from Batasan River and it is feared that leachate from the landfill is causing more pollution in the river. Eco-tourism livelihood has a lot of potential in the river that can uplift the living conditions of fisherfolk and village residents.

Freedom Island in Las Pinas and Paranaque

Included in the list of Ramsar wetlands of international importance is the Las Piňas – Paraňaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area or LPPCHEA. Where is it? If you are going to Cavite via the Coastal Road, it’s on the right side of the toll booth. It might look like an empty dump from the road but it is a critical habitat, bird sanctuary, and considered by many as the last coastal frontier in the Metropolis. The wetlands used to be bigger but the Tambo Mudflats is now Mall of Asia and Solaire. How important is LPPCHEA? More than 80 bird species can be spotted here, including migratory birds from north Asia and the endemic Philippine Duck. Have you ever seen a duck that can fly? LPPCHEA is also a mangrove park which minimizes the flooding in the southern areas of Metro Manila. The mangroves also serve as a fishing ground that benefits fisherfolk from Paranaque and Cavite. LPPCHEA is called Freedom Island because of the historic struggle of the residents to protect their homes against the threat of demolition. The name is apt since the struggle continues and this time the campaign is against the planned extension of the Manila Bay reclamation which can reach up to the coastal villages of Bacoor beside the Cavitex.

Marikina Watershed

The watershed is located in Rizal but it benefits Marikina and the low-lying areas of Metro Manila. After the destructive impact of Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, we finally realized that tree planting activities should be aggressively pursued in watershed areas and not along urban highways and expressways. In the case of Metro Manila and some parts of Bulacan, flooding and mudslides can be prevented by reversing the deforestation in the Marikina Watershed. It means we need to mobilize green volunteers to plant native trees in the Rizal towns of Antipolo, Baras, Rodriguez, San Mateo, and Tanay. The good news is that Marikina watershed is now a protected landscape. The reported greening program of the government should thus be monitored to ensure that funds are efficiently utilized. Volunteers should also understand that tree planting is not a one-time event since it also involves community assistance, livelihood support, seed dispersal, and maintaining a forest nursery. In other words, planting of tree saplings is not enough; we also need to help local residents who will guard the reservation area and drive away loggers and stray animals. So if there’s a tree planting gimmick in your school, community or government agency, remind the organizers to make it more real by doing it in the Marikina Watershed.

Arboretum and La Mesa Ecopark in Quezon City

Commonwealth is not only wider and longer than Edsa, it also has green parks that make it more eco-friendly. As suburbanization spreads to north Manila, traffic along Commonwealth will continue to increase, especially when MRT-7 becomes operational. But we hope that green spaces near Commonwealth will be preserved. These areas could include the Quezon City Wildlife, Quezon Memorial Circle, the Arboretum urban forest in Diliman, the parks in UP-Ateneo-Balara, and La Mesa Dam and Ecopark in Fairview. After completing an inventory of the plant and animal species found in these areas, there should be a program on how to maintain the integrity of these habitats while encouraging the people to participate in the conservation efforts. A clean La Mesa is important to all since it’s our source of drinking water. It’s quite worrying that the dam is geographically close to Payatas dumpsite. Hopefully, local leaders can rebrand Commonwealth from being a ‘killer highway’ to a green highway. Or a road that brings Metro Manila residents to forest parks, bird sanctuaries, lagoons, and wildlife habitats. This, and not traffic, is the most important indicator of progress.

One Response to “5 Wildlife Habitats in Metro Manila That We Need To Visit and Protect”

  1. Nice blog. It’s just sad to see that these parks are being taken for granted. This issue is like the other side of the coin, in which the city is thriving with huge buildings that gives jobs to others but then again these green spaces pays the price. But from what I have seen, it seems that the La Mesa Eco park is doing well in terms of preservation. The park looks greener and alive, though, I only saw that in pictures. I do really want to see the progress first hand. Hopefully people will read this post and realize the havoc we are causing to mother earth.

    Jayson Park

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