The balinsasayaw, or swiftlet — the bird that weaves sought-after edible nests — is under threat in Taytay, Palawan, due to land clearing activities.
Former town mayor Roberto Rodriguez said yesterday (Monday, November 26) that the birds at Pangalan Point on Mayteguid Island were now in grave danger.
Pangalan Point, he said, has caves that serve as nesting areas for the balinsasayaw, while its surrounding forest is their foraging ground.
There is a high demand for the edible nests produced by the birds, which command a wholesale price of 180,000 pesos per kilo.
He said that under-brushing activities in the area for the planting of coconut trees, banana, mango and others along the shoreline were putting the birds at risk.
“The area is restricted and classified as timberland and it is also being proposed as one of the main selling points for the community-based sustainable tourism industry in Taytay,” he said.
Because of this, it is crucial to protect the island and the source of income for nest gatherers in the town.
Joie Matillano, the town’s government tourism officer, believes that Mayteguid also has the potential for community-based tourism that would benefit local villages.
He said one of the plans was is to capitalise on the community-managed balinsasayaw industry as a tourist attraction in its own right.
By doing so, he said, this would empower residents “to become more passionate about protecting and saving the remaining habitat of balinsasayaw in Taytay”.
Among the many islands in Taytay Bay, only the islands of Mayteguid and Pabellon still have populations of balinsasayaw.
Due to illegal land clearing and under-brushing activities, the “buceadors” or bird’s nest harvesters, are seeing their way of life threatened.
“I am very apprehensive that the loss of the balinsasayaw habitat will destroy not only the natural beauty of the island but also income opportunities of local residents who have been harvesting the bird’s nest since the time of their forefathers,” Mr Rodriguez said.
He added that he had notified the Department of Environment and Natural Resources about his concerns, but there had been no action taken as yet.
“We hope that the concerned agencies will take appropriate action to preserve our natural and cultural heritage because the under-brushing activity is still continuing even until now,” he said.