Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has welcomed the recent sighting of the globally endangered Christmas frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) in the Apo Reef Natural Park (ARNP), saying it indicates the vibrancy of the ecosystems in the world-famous marine sanctuary.

“The sighting of the endangered seabird is an indicator of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystems in ARNP, and that only means that conservation efforts there are bearing fruit and the people in charge of protecting the area are doing a good job,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu gave the ARNP Protected Area Office and its partners a pat on the back for their efforts to protect the marine reserve, which is home to tremendous coral diversity as well as numerous species of fish and mammals such as the dugong.

Located off the town of Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro province, the ARNP is the largest reef in the country and the second largest contiguous coral reef on the planet. It is nestled within the Coral Triangle, which is the epicenter of the world’s marine biodiversity and a global priority for conservation.

Last June 25, a Christmas frigatebird was sighted in ARNP and the sighting was documented by the protected area office and the Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (MBCI). It was the third sighting of the seabird “outside the Sulu Sea,” where the fowl is frequently sighted.

The sighting of the bird species was first recorded in Tawi-Tawi province in 1995. Since then, more than 150 sightings of the species in Sulu Sea were recorded.

In its report, the MBCI described the sighting as a “juvenile” seabird with “black upper parts, a pale cream head, has dark breast bands, and distinctly shaped white patch in its belly and under its wings.”

This species of frigatebirds are known to breed only in Christmas Island in Australia, located south of Java, Indonesia. It is considered the ninth most evolutionary distinct and globally endangered bird in the world.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature listed the Christmas frigatebird as “critically endangered” in its Red List of Threatened Species.

During the 12th Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) held in Manila last year, the Philippines pushed for “higher protection” for Christmas frigatebird by including it in Appendix I of the CMS.

Appendix I covers migratory species that are considered endangered or with a high risk of extinction. The listing requires CMS party-states to protect these species by strictly prohibiting their capture, conserving and restoring their habitats, and removing obstacles to their migration.

The CMS, adopted by 124 nations and is under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme, is the only global environmental treaty established exclusively for the conservation and management of terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range.

The COP is its main decision-making body that meets every three years to adopt policies and laws, and propose new species under the framework. #