•March 6, 2008 • 4 Comments

Nueva Valencia, Guimaras – An Italian couple on a two-month holiday in the Philippines chose to include this paradise in their itinerary and stayed at the Raymen Beach Resort in December 2006, unperturbed by news about the oil spill that brought the island province to world attention in August of the same year.

“We are just here to see good beaches,” said the Boldo couple, who are just among the hundreds of foreign guests who kept coming to Guimaras even in the aftermath of the infamous oil spill. Guimaras has 238.3-kilometer coastline, with long stretches of white, powdery sand considered among the finest in the world.

Lucia Cachuela, managing director of the El Retiro Beach Park, noted that international visitor arrivals to Guimaras began to pick up in November. “Tourists are coming back,” Cachuela told journalists who visited the province as a part of the Guimaras Tourism Recovery Program spearheaded by the Department of Tourism.

Despite the accident and the negative publicity it generated for the province since August, data show that the number of foreign tourists, or those who spent at least a night in Guimaras, went up to 293 in November from 98 in October, 75 in September, and 237 in August – the month of the accident. In November 2005, there were only 143 foreign tourists in Guimaras.

Foreign excursionists, or day-in visitors, also went up to 525 in November from 453 a year ago. It was also up from 257 in October, and 297 in September. In August, the number of foreign excursionists reached 566.

Guimaras targets to attract more foreign tourists, because they spend the highest amount while in the island. The DOT Guests Assistance Centers in the port towns of Buenavista and Jordan estimated the average daily expenditure of foreign tourist at P2,000; foreign excursionist, P1,500; local tourist, P1,500; and local excursionist, P500.

“Guimaras is very alive and kicking,” said Helen Camarista, the officer-in-charge of the Department of Tourism in Western Visayas. “Business has never been stronger.”

“Out of 24 accredited resorts, only seven have been hardest hit. So 17 resorts are okay,” Camarista, herself a resident of Guimaras, said.

Nueva Valencia Vice Mayor Juan Gaitan agreed, saying many beach resorts remain unspoiled. “We are telling people that not all areas have been affected. We encourage them to come to Guimaras,” Gaitan said.

For example, Jose Garomita, president of the Guisi Community-based Heritage Tourism, said that they were able to protect the white-sand beach in Guisi, a sitio in Barangay Dolores, Nueva Valencia town from the oil slick.

Guimaras, a 60,465-hectare island the size of Singapore with five towns and 98 barangays and home to more than 140,000 residents, hogged the headlines when oil tanker MT Solar I carrying 2 million liters of bunker fuel owned by Petron Corp. sank in rough waters 10 miles off the coast of Nueva Valencia town on August 11 this year.

Scientists said about 300,000 liters of the cargo polluted 24,000 square kilometers of waters near the island paradise. The spill was later contained, and clean up operations began.

Ironically, foreign and domestic visitor arrivals to Guimaras went up by 13 percent to 13,566 in August from 11,986 a year ago. Arrivals reached 14,501 in September; 14,163 in October and 12,221 in November.

“More attention has been given to Guimaras since August. Now, there are scientists, researchers, and donors who are coming to Guimaras,” Camarista said.

Camarista noted that before the oil spill took place, there were only 4 to 5 departures of pump boats each day. Now, this has gone up to 7 to 10 departures per day, she said.

But a few resorts are still feeling the impact of the tragedy. “When news of the oil spill spread, seven resorts received booking cancellations through email,” Camarista conceded.

Peter Harper-bill, an 80-year-old British retiree who manages the Baras Resort, said bookings were less than half of what they used to be. “Normally, we were fully booked around Christmas, but now we are not,” Harper-bill said.

Tourism is a major industry in Guimaras. In 2005, tourist arrivals totaled 181,915 and injected P204.3 million into its local economy. Since 2003, tourist arrivals to the province have been rising 30 percent per annum.

Ruben Corpuz, the provincial economic officer, said much of Guimaras, including its spectacular coastline and rich marine biodiversity remain unexplored.

Its main attractions include Roca Encantadia, Guisi Lighthouse, Tiniguiban Islet, Isla Naburot, Lombija Wildlife Resort, Taklong-Tandog Island, Igang Marine Station, Toyo Reef, and La Paz and Pamankulan Fish Sanctuaries. Corpuz said the province is also fast rising as a destination for mountain bike races, kayaking and tours to mango plantations. Guimaras exports sweet mangoes to the United States.

Corpuz said he is optimistic about the tourism prospects in Guimaras for several reasons. These include the expansion of the ports in Jordan and Buenavista towns, the completion of the international airport by March 2007 in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo which is the gateway to Guimaras, and new investments in tourist facilities, such as the multi-million-peso investment in the Lombija Wildlife Resort and Hotel and a new convention center.

Julius Camacho, a cousin of businessman Henry Babiera of the Ortigas Group who develops the Lombija zoo, said that at more than 20 hectares, the zoo will be the largest in the country once it opens sometime in 2008. The zoo has been under development since 1998. Corpuz said about P300 million has already been invested for the development of the project, which is seen to add a new attraction to Guimaras.

“We also envision Guimaras to be a logistics hub. Guimaras Strait has the deepest berth for international vessels,” Corpuz said. “For Guimaras, there is no other way but up.”



•March 6, 2008 • 1 Comment

Widely known as one of the finest swimming destinations in the world, Boracay is blessed with unsullied fine talcum powder-sand beaches. Its tranquil crystal clear waters are perfect for swimming, sailing, fishing and sunbathing.

Boracay also boasts of sapphire seas and spectacular sunsets. Countless hidden coves dot the island and tall coconut trees line up along the beaches.

Boracay lies at the northwest tip of Panay, in the west Visayas region, off the Sibuyan Sea. The island is made up of little communities: Yapak in the north, Balabag in the middle, and Manocmanoc in the south.

Hilly elevations up to 100 meters above sea level characterize Yapak and Manocmanoc. Intertwining trails link the small villages together but many sometimes lead to lush tropical jungles.

To get to Boracay, one has to book a flight to Kalibo, the capital of Aklan province, or Caticlan. Air-conditioned coasters or public buses offer one-hour-and-a-half drive from Kalibo to Caticlan, where one can board a motorized banca for a 30-minute trip to Boracay.

Historical Butuan City

•March 6, 2008 • 11 Comments

BUTUAN City – A national cultural treasure, estimated to be more than 1,600 years old, is housed in an old dilapidated structure near the east bank of the Libertad river in this historic city and trade center of Agusan del Norte province.

The Balanghai shrine, a one-storey building being maintained by the National Museum, houses two of the three ancient boats discovered and excavated from 1976 to 1986.

Mario Bongay, a restorer at the Balanghai Shrine since 1993, said radiocarbon tests administered by Japanese experts on one of these boats suggested that the wooden boat could have existed as early as 320 AD. Another boat was carbon dated to be more than 1000 years old.

The National Museum in Manila houses the other boat. No other remains of the ancient boats, locally known as balanghais, were found elsewhere.

These archaeological findings in Butuan prompted former President Corazon Aquino to issue in 1987 Proclamation No. 86, which declared the boats, locally known as balanghais, as national cultural treasures and the sites where they were discovered as archaeological sites.

However, Leonides Theresa Plaza, chairperson of the Caraga regional tourism council admitted that the Balanghai Shrine is at a “dilapidated” state, threatening the restoration of what is perhaps the most important evidence of pre-Hispanic Filipino civilization.

Plaza said they are now talking with the National Museum on how to improve the Balanghai Shrine, and signed a memorandum of agreement, where the local government of Butuan can help finance the upgrading of the facilities.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano, who graced the celebration of Araw ng Caraga, also cited the need to improve the Balanghai Shrine.

Durano said his office also contributed P2.5 million for a project of the Butuan city government to promote its Balanghai tradition.

The city government of Butuan is undertaking a P7-million project to launch within six months the so-called Agusan river cruise on board replicas of Balanghais.

Durano said the project is expected to drive tourism activities not only in Butuan, but also in the whole Caraga region (Region XIII), which apart from its historical value is being promoted as an adventure tourism destination.

Aside from the Balanghai Shrine, other major attractions in Caraga are the surfing destination of Siargao, the Agusan Marsh wildlife sanctuary, Lake Mainit, Bucas Grande Island, Mount Hilong Hilong, and Tinuy-an Falls.

Cecilia Lopez, an assistant regional director of the National Economic and Development Authority in Caraga, said the growth of tourism in the region is proving to be beneficial for the expansion of various industries.

Durano supported this, saying that tourism is an important contributor to employment generation and creation of livelihood opportunities.

Oldest tree now a tourist destination

BUTUAN City – The country’s oldest tree is now officially a tourist destination, after the Department of Tourism installed a tourist center near the 500-year-old Bitaog tree in Magallanes, Agusan del Norte.

Officials of the provincial government of Agusan del Norte and the Department of Tourism inaugurated over the weekend the tourist center to accommodate some 200 daily visitors in the village of Caloc-an in Magallanes to view the tree, which in June 1998, was declared Philippine Centennial Tree.

“This 500-year-old tree has witnessed more stories than Jun Lozada,” Agusan del Norte Governor Erlpe John Amante said in jest. Lozada is the new Senate witness in the ongoing investigation into the alleged anomalous deal between the government and Chinese firm ZTE Corp. for a national broadband network project.

Local historian Florante More, who nominated the Bitaog tree (Calophyllum inophyllum) as the oldest tree in 1998, said the trunk of the tree measures 290 centimeters in diameter.

The Bitaog tree, however, is much younger compared to the oldest known tree in the world, a Great Basin bristlecone pine located in California’s White Mountains and is popularly known as the Methuselah tree. It is believed to be more than 4,700 years old.

Aside from the Bitaog tree, Magallanes town, named after explorer Ferdinand Magellan, also takes pride of its rich history. More said the first Catholic mass was actually celebrated in Magallanes on April 8, 1521, and not in Limasawa.

More said a proof of this is the marker erected during the time of Spanish District Governor Jose Maria Carvallo in 1873, commemorating the first mass in Magallanes.

Two places in Agusan were actually contesting Limasawa’s claim – a site in Magallanes at the mouth of the 350-kilometer Agusan River and the Easter Mass Eco Park in Butuan City , where a large cross was erected to commemorate the first mass.

Greg Hontiveros, author of the book “Butuan of a Thousand Years”, however, said Butuan hosted a thriving civilization even before the Spaniards came in 1521.

“By the time the Spaniards came, Butuan as a trading port was in fact already on the decline,” he said.
Hontiveros said wooden plank-build and edge-pegged boats believed to be more than a thousand years old were excavated from Barangay Libertad.

One of the boats, called Balangay 1 was carbon dated to be more than 1,600 year old. Its relics suggest that the boat measured 15 meters in length and 3 meters wide across the beam.

The relics are now kept inside the old building of the Balangay Shrine Museum in Libertad, near a swamp, where the boats were extracted.


•March 5, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Until recently, Panglao Island has stolen some of the glitters of the world-famous Boracay Island. Located at the southwestern tip of Bohol province, Panglao boasts of a long stretch of white-sand beaches embracing crystal-clear and blue waters.

Aside from beach activities, foreign tourists who visit Panglao are in for wonderful treats like diving, snorkelling and caving. Panglao is also fast rising as a venue for corporate gatherings such as conventions, seminars and brainstorming.

Panglao is easily accessible from Manila and Cebu. From Manila, one can take a one-hour flight to Tagbilaran City, the capital of Bohol. It is another 90-minute drive from Tagbilaran to Panglao. From Cebu, one can take a 90-minute trip by sea aboard ferry boats toward Tagbilaran. Then, a jeepney or a taxi will take you to Panglao for a reasonable fee.


•March 5, 2008 • Leave a Comment

DONSOL, Sorsogon (April 19, 2007) – Once a sleepy coastal village located at the northwestern tip of Sorsogon province, this town now eyes to be a first-class municipality, thanks to giant sea creatures that are now attracting hordes of foreign and local tourists who infuse millions of pesos into the local economy.

“Donsol was elevated to a third-class municipality in 2006 from a fourth-class status in 2003 and fifth-class in 1998, because of the butanding,” Mayor Salve Ocaya said, while giving tribute to the whale sharks, considered as the world’s largest fish that have found a home in the plankton-rich municipal waters of Donsol.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano, who attended the opening of the four-day Butanding Festival along with Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque Jr. on April 18, said Donsol, a town of about 40,000 people, now has the chance to become a first-class municipality through sustainable eco-tourism.

“It was really amazing to see them in water,” said Durano, who dived three times to personally witness the gentle whale sharks, some of which grow as long as 18 meters and weigh up to 34 tons.

During the past Holy Week, hundreds of whale sharks visited the municipal waters of Donsol, attracting more than 300 tourists, many of whom checked in at hotels as far as Legaspi City, because of full occupancy at Donsol’s four resorts and 15 houses that have been accredited for the home stay program.

“We used to treat butanding as enemies, because they were eating our fish. Now, they are giving us our income,” said Joel Briones, a former fisherman who now works as a butanding interaction officer, with much higher earnings.

Allan Amanse, a part of the first batch of butanding interaction officers who quit his job as tricycle driver eight years ago, said that at a good season, he could earn up to ten times his previous income.

Amanse said he was earning P650 per three-hour boat trip, and during a good season, he could have up to three trips a day. The butanding season starts from December and lasts until May. During off-season, Amanse works as a dive master, guiding tourists at fascinating dive spots in Sorsogon and Masbate.

There are about 40 accredited butanding interaction officers in Donsol, who accompany 60 registered boats, each of which has three or four crew members. The boats can be hired for a three-hour butanding interaction trip for P3,500.

Maria Ong Ravanilla, the tourism regional director for Bicol, said the boat fare was raised to P3,500 from P2,500 to prevent them from overcrowding the butanding habitat. Last month, she also issued a directive, limiting to 25 the maximum number of boats allowed to cruise the butanding area at a time.

Aside from the boat crews and butanding interaction officers, the extraordinary growth of tourism in Donsol has created job opportunities for thousand of others, including resort and restaurant employees, home owners, service workers such as spa therapists, souvenir producers, vendors, fruit retailers, and transport drivers. It has also given fishers an expanded market for their catch, as tourists prefer fresh seafood.

Erna Jimenes, a 61-year-old resident who opened her house to tourists under the home stay program, earns P700 a night for each of the four rooms she made available for rent by the tourists. At the town center, the ancestral home of the Ravolan family was also opened to tourists. Air-conditioned rooms are available for P1,200 a night.

A study by the environmental group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimated the contribution of tourism to Donsol economy at P50 million in 2006 alone when about 11,000 tourists visited the town, about 65 percent of whom were foreigners. Arrivals were up from 7,000 in 2005.

Last year, Donsol received an internal revenue allotment of P41 million. Durano said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also ordered the release of P60 million for the expansion of the Donsol bridge to enhance access to Barangay Dancayan, the jump-off point for whale shark interaction.

The municipal government generated taxes of P1.9 million from tourist registration alone, up from P1.5 million in 2005. Foreign tourists are charged P300 and domestic tourists, P100 to interact with the whale sharks.

On top of butanding interaction, Donsol introduced another natural wonder as an attraction – the firefly watching at the Ogod River, where mangrove trees glow like Christmas trees at night as thousands of fireflies inhabit the area. The river also has the widest and clearest view of galaxies of stars.

Durano stressed the need to sustain eco-tourism in Donsol in order to keep the whale sharks in its waters. The tourism department, he noted, has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund in order to study how to sustain tourism while protecting the habitat of the whale sharks.

“As long as we protect their habitat, they will continue to be here,” Durano said, while citing an initial finding of the WWF that whale sharks do not actually leave Donsol as they stay here all year-round. “They just go deeper during some months of the year,” he added.

The Philippine government now appreciates tourism for its job generation capability. Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri said that if the country can only attract more than 10 million foreign tourists like Thailand does, it can eliminate the problem of unemployment. In 2006, the country drew 2.84 million foreign visitors.

Durano, however, said there is a limit to tourism growth particularly in eco-tourism destinations such as Donsol. “The limit should be if it starts destroying the habitat,” he said.

Julia Campbell, the late New York Times journalist and member of the US Peace Corps, started an eco-tourism center in Donsol to help increase public awareness on protecting the whale sharks. She was supposed to return to Donsol to finish the project, until she was reported dead in the bosom of the Moutain Terraces in the tourist province of Ifugao on April 18.

Local officials in Donsol, who knew Campbell personally, vowed to continue her project. Tourism officials also agreed to control tourism movement for its sustainability.

The right formula, Durano said, should be “striking a balance between mass tourism and preserving the natural habitat.”

Durano also said that more people should feel the benefits of tourism growth. “The more we spread the benefits of tourism throughout the country, the better it will be for the sustainable development of the Philippines,” he said. Roderick T. dela Cruz


•March 5, 2008 • 2 Comments

Makati is the financial center of the Philippines, being the location of choice for the regional headquarters of multinational companies and the country’s largest conglomerates. It is also home to the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Ayala Center is home to several shopping malls and restaurant rows. It is also surrounded by a number of hotels such as Oakwood Premiere Hotel (now Ascott), Hotel Intercontinental, Makati Shangri La, Dusit Hotel Nikko, and Renaissance Hotel. Also within walking distance are the Peninsula Manila and the Mandarin Oriental.

Towering buildings line up the streets of Ayala Avenue, Gil Puyat (formerly Buendia), Paseo de Roxas, and Makati Avenue. Across Buendia from the commercial business district (CBD) is a thriving tourist district, where hotel rates are more affordable.

Hotels in this area (Makati Avenue, Burgos Street, Jupiter Street) include Oxford Suites, City Garden Hotel, CEO Suites, Saint Illian’s Inn, Somerset, Perla Mansion, Great Eastern Hotel, Millennium Plaza Hotel, Fraser Place, Citadel Inn, among others.


•March 5, 2008 • 4 Comments

Travel and airline executives met in this city over the weekend to develop and promote the sub-regional group of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines – East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) as one tourist destination.

“We have to brand it as one destination,” said Wee Hong Seng, president of the Sarawak Tourism Federation.BIMP-EAGA is a sub-regional group of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) formed in 1994 to help develop the economic well-being of the member countries through various tourism and trade exchanges and programs.

In particular, these areas include Brunei ; Central Kalimantan, Sulawesi provinces, Maluku, and Papua in Indonesia ; Sabah and Sarawak states and the Federal Territory of Labuan in Malaysia ; and Mindanao and Palawan in the Philippines.

“We should not be competing against each other. We should be complementing,” Seng said during the Davao Travel Show at the SM City in Davao attended by Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano.Ang Kian Guan, BIMP-EAGA chairman for transport, infrastructure and information technology, said airline executives were joining the meeting to discuss the possibility of adding more intra-regional flights.

At present, there are only five airlines connecting the major cities of EAGA. These are Royal Brunei Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Asian Spirit, Batavia Air and Merpati Airlines.

In the Philippines , the only carrier flying from Davao City to other parts of EAGA is Merpati Airlines with flies to Manadao in Indonesia . Asian Spirit flies from Zamboanga to Sandakan in Malaysia.

Other major cities in the EAGA sub-region are Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei , Kota Kinabalu and Kuching in Malaysia , Puerto Princesa ( Philippines ) and Pontianak in Indonesia.There are now plans to add new routes, including Davao-Bandar Seri Begawan by Pearl Pacific Airways, Puerto Princesa-Kota Ki-nabalu by Southeast Asian Airlines and Davao-Kota Kinabalu by Cebu Pacific Air.

Other proposed routes are Kuching-Bandar Seri Begawan-Kota Kinabalu by Air Asia and Pontianak -Kuching- Bandar Seri Begawan by Batavia Air.

Durano earlier said the Philippines expects to strengthen its relations with other countries, help establish business linkages among the private sector participants, as well as exchange information on the latest developments in tourism.The DOT promotes the pristine beaches, natural wonders and colorful culture of Mindanao and Palawan as a part of the BIMP-EAGA sub-region.

Seven-hectare resort to rise in Samal
DAVAO City – The Bangayan Group of Companies is building a nine-hectare resort-residential complex on Samal Island that is expected to drive tourism activities in Davao region.

Under construction is the Holiday Oceanview Resort & Spa, which includes a 120-room hotel, a 400-room condominium complex, a marina, and a subdivision. The whole project is expected to be completed by 2009.Brokers of the P300-million complex, however, are already selling the residential component of the project and participated in the Davao Travel Show at the SM City.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano, who attended the travel show and inspected the different tourism projects in Davao over the weekend, said the rise of Davao as a major tourist destination is encouraging the development of hotels and resorts.

Davao is being promoted as an achor destination of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Growth Area.Nearly 600,000 foreign and domestic tourists went to Davao region in the first nine months of 2007. Davao region groups the provinces of Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Island of Samal and Davao City.

Art Boncato Jr., director of sales and marketing of Marco Polo hotel in Davao, confirmed that both foreign and local tourists have been flocking to Mindanao in recent years.He said occupancy rate at Marco Polo reached a record high of more than 70 percent in 2007, and signs are looking better this year.

Despite the new projects rising in Davao, Boncato said Marco Polo will remain the most luxurious accommodation facilities in the city.

The growth of tourism in Davao city has also triggered investments and projects in other areas of Davao such as Tagum.

Tagum City Mayor Rey Uy said tourism has been inducing economic growth in his city. Tagum is being promoted as the festival city of Mindanao.

Eagle losses habitat to miningDAVAO City – The Philippine eagle, which serves as the symbol of conservation efforts in the country, has been losing its natural habitat to mining, which is rapidly encroaching into the forests of Mindanao.

Once described as the “world’s noblest flyer” by aviator Charles Lindbergh, the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is now rarely spotted at the country’s remaining virgin forests and is mostly concentrated at the captive breeding grounds of the Philippine Eagle Center, which recently received a P5-million financing from the Department of Tourism for its new entrance lounge.Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano visited the center over the weekend to inspect the new entance lounge in place of the old dilapidated structure. His department released the amount to improve the entrance lounge of the center, which in 2007, received more than 100,000 foreign and Filipino guests.

The eight-hectare Philippine Eagle Center, which is being run by the non-profit group Philippine Eagle Foundation in Malagos, Baguio District in this city, has emerged as one of the prime tourist destinations in Mindanao .Elsa Delima, manager of the center-based education, said that only 500 pairs of the world’s largest eagle in terms of wingspan live in the wild of Luzon, Samar and Leyte, and Mindanao . The Philippine eagle has an average wingspan of two meters, the broadest among eagles in the world.

The number of eagles in the wild, she said, was only an estimate and was based on the nesting sites found in the forests.

What is clear, she said, is that there are only 500,000 hectares of old-growth or virgin forests remaining in the country, and this area is being threatened by human activities such as mining.The Philippine eagles were mostly sighted in virgin forests of Luzon, Samar and Leyte and Mindanao . The fact that Philippine eagle is endemic to the Philippines proves that the archipelago is not connected to the islands of Indonesia and Malaysia .

However, millions of hectares of forest areas from Cordillera and Sierra Madre to Bicol to Samar and Leyte down to Caraga and Davao region are now the subject of mining exploration applications. These are the areas where Philippine eagles were spotted in the past.

About 383 mining tenements have been approved and registered, while 1,846 other mining tenements were being processed as of January 2008, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

A mining project, including exploration, normally covers an area of 1,000 hectares to as large as 100,000 hectares, mostly in forests.

Domingo Tadena, deputy director for captive-breeding in the center, said the giant raptor is endemic to the Philippines and is sensitive to its environment. The species is known to be solitary and fiercely territorial.

The eagle center currently takes care of 36 Philippine eagles. The center has bred 22 eagles since January 1992, when Pagasa was hatched in captivity.

Tadena said the center plans to release an eagle named Kagsabua (which means hope in Higaonon), in Mount Kitanglad to reintroduce it to the wild on March 6. Kagsabua was rescued from the same forest in Bukidnon with a bullet wound in September 2006, which suggests that the eagles are still being targeted by poachers despite government protection.

Durano earlier advised local government units to disallow mining activities in areas being developed for tourism. “Tourism and mining do not mix together,” he said.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), however, claimed that it has recently added four new entries to its list of protected areas.From 103 in 2006, there are now 107 proclaimed protected areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), covering a total of 3.34 million hectares.

Protected areas are identified portions of land and water set aside by reasons of their unique physical and biological significance.

These include national parks, natural parks, marine parks, marine reserves, game refuge and bird sanctuaries, wilderness areas, watershed forest reserves, mangrove swamps, protected landscapes/seascapes, natural monuments/landmarks, resource reserve, wildlife sanctuary, and natural biotic areas.

The four new protected areas cover a total of 19,829.13 hectares. These are the Mt. Balatukan Range Natural Park in Misamis Oriental, Mt. Inayawan Natural Park in Lanao del Norte, Kalbario-Patapat Natural Park in Ilocos Norte and Mt. Palay-Palay Mataas na Gulod Protected Landscape in Cavite.

Other eagles that are considered among the largest in the world are Harpy Eagle and Crested Eagles of the Americas and the New Guinea Harpy Eagle.