Friday, November 18, 2005

Fly, flu, flown

Speaking of bird flu, the Philippines has so far been spared of any major outbreaks of the H5N1 bird flu virus. We had one case in Bulacan of avian flu, but that was a sissy strain; the kind that only manages to inconvenience poultry with hacking coughs, wheezes, and rales. Being smack dab in the middle of the East Asian Migratory Flyway, it's a wonder why there are bird flu cases elsewhere in the region, notably Indonesia and Thailand, but not here. It has also travelled westward from China into Europe. Why?

I was p0ndering this question on my way home one night when I took a route home that I dont normally take: I passed through Roxas Boulevard. Then it dawned on me. When I was knee high to the tutubing karayom, that expanse of Roxas Boulevard from Buendia to Paranaque was estuarine mudflat and sea. The fabled Manila Bay sunset was visible all the way from Baclaran to Luneta. Now it's reclaimed area. It's Blue Wave and The Mall of Asia. The reason we havent gotten the bird flu is because migratory birds from the Eurasian mainland have nowhere to land. The Tambo mudflats where migratory birds make their winter home to breed is shrinking, giving way to urban sprawl and its concomitant garbage and pollution. This is most probably happening all over the country. Who wants to raise kids in that kind of neighborhood? Certainly not the Great Egret (Egretta alba) or the Striated Heron (Butorides striatus). Metro Manila's migratory wild bird sanctuary is confined to an ever-shrinking area along the Coastal Road in Paranaque, and being Paranaque, if rampant squatting doesnt do it first, it won't be long before some housing project or another will force the poor critters to nest elsewhere. Anywhere. Like, say, for instance, Indonesia, bringing the dreaded H5N1 with them.

(P.S.: We do have places for the birds to land like the Candaba swamps in Pampanga and Olango island in Cebu, but environmental pressures are being exerted on these areas by we the people. Candaba and Olango are being marketed as eco-tourism areas so things bode well for them. The Coastal Road in Paranaque, Im not so sure.)

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