AT least 57 employees of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) recently planted molave and narra seedlings at Freedom Island in Las Piñas City as part of the health insurance agency's 16th anniversary activities.
The tree-planting activity, which was made possible in cooperation with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - National Capital Region, is part of PhilHealth's efforts to help save the environment, promote better health and instill employee volunteerism.
Freedom Island spans about 25 hectares and is located near the coastal road on the way to Cavite. It was declared a critical habitat and ecotourism area in 2007 and has since been a favorite tree-planting site for private and government companies under their corporate social responsibility programs. The island plays host to more than 30 species of trees, eight (8) species of mangroves and about 52 species of wild birds, most of which are migratory.
Prior to its proclamation as a critical habitat and ecotourism area, local and foreign birders frequently visited the area, which is the only one of its kind within the metropolis. It is also considered a wetland of global ecological importance as it hosts at least one percent of the population of Greenshank and ten percent of the population of Black-winged Stilts within the East Asian Flyway.
Jointly taking responsibility for the island's natural resources are the DENR, the Department of Tourism, the city governments of Las Piñas and Parañaque and the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines. The DENR annually earmarks funds for maintenance activities in the island such as weeding, cutting, trail clearing and the upkeep of its satellite office in the island.
Rey Aguinaldo, DENR-NCR Division Chief and Project Officer of the island said that earlier vulnerability studies show that the island has threats of erosion and liquefaction, but that they are addressing the issue by planting more trees. He added that they envision the island to eventually become an ecotourism site, complete with towers for bird watching enthusiasts, a boardwalk leading to the mangrove areas, an audio-visual room for student education sessions and lodging areas for those who want to wait for the nocturnal birds.
Reynaldo Villafuerte, DENR-NCR Technical Director for protected areas, wildlife and coastal zone management services welcomed the PhilHealth employees to the island. (Moppet B. Varlez and Loida C. Ignacio, Public Affairs Department)
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