|PCP- LGU Kalayaan and AFP in Palawan|
DENR TRAINS LGU-KALAYAAN AND AFP IN PALAWAN ON MARINE TURTLE CONSERVATION PROCEDURES The Pawikan Conservation Project (PCP) of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recently trained employees of the local government of Kalayaan in Palawan on marine turtle conservation procedures, together with selected elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. About 76 participants actively participated in the 2-day training held at the Palawan Sustainable Development Training Institute in Irawan, Palawan and Kalayaan Beach, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan from September 8-9, 2010. Participants were composed of representatives from LGU-Kalayaan, PNP-Palawan, DILG-Palawan, Naval Forces West (NAVFORWEST) of the Philippine Navy, 570th Composite Tactical Wing (CTW) of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS), PENRO-Palawan, CENRO-Puerto Princesa City, CENRO-Narra, CENRO-Brooke’s Point, CENRO-Coron, CENRO-Quezon, and Kilusan Sagip Kalikasan (KSK), a special project of the Provincial Government of Palawan.
Topics discussed in the training include marine turtle biology and morphology, species identification and learning assessment, life history, threats and causes of mortality, status of marine turtle population, proper handling, ecological significance, the current initiatives of the PCP, impacts of climate change on marine turtles, protection of eggs and nests, R.A. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, and guidelines on what to do when a marine turtle is encountered. The output of the training is the action plan on marine turtle conservation which will be implemented by the participants within their capability. Participants also underwent hands-on training on marine turtle hatchery procedures and proper transfer of eggs using ping pong balls.
A green turtle, Chelonia mydas, was likewise tagged and released during the training. The turtle allegedly got entangled in a fishing gear locally known as “subid” off Canigaran, Brgy. Bancao-Bancao, Puerto Princesa City on September 07, 2010. Friedrich Punzalan of the 570th Composite Tactical Wing of the PAF fastened an inconel tag with serial number PH0715E to the right foreflipper of the turtle, the carapace of which measured 65cm long and 58cm wide. Information on the accidental capture of the green turtle was relayed by Professor Rainier I. Manalo of Palawan State University (PSU) to PCSDS and Protected Areas and Wildlife Sector (PAWS) of PENRO-Palawan about lunchtime on September 07, 2010. Mr. Manalo and his marine biology students were conducting seagrass assessment in the area at that time. PENRO-Palawan PAWS staff together with the training team from the Pawikan Conservation Project (PCP) of PAWB-DENR and Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) immediately proceeded to the area and assessed the condition of the said turtle. The PCP decided to tag and release such turtle during the training, thus it was brought to Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC), formerly Crocodile Farming Institute (CFI) for temporary safekeeping. PCSDS provided the transport vehicle from Brgy. Bancao-bancao to PWRCC. Kalayaan popularly known as “Spratly Islands” is composed of seven (7) small islands namely Patag (Flat Reef), Parola (Northeast Cay), Lawak (Nashnan), Kota (Loaita), Pag-asa, Panata (Lankian Cay), Likas (West York) and two (2) reefs, Commodore Reef and Mischief Shoal.
Pag-asa which is the seat of the municipality of Kalayaan has a land area of 23.6 hectares. Kota Cay and Panata Cay of Spratly Islands were established as marine turtle sanctuaries pursuant to MNR Administrative Order No. 8 which was issued on June 8, 1982 by former Minister of Natural Resources, Teodoro Q. Peña. DENR is formerly called MNR. The white sandy beach of Pag-asa Island is nesting ground of the endangered green turtles. Due to illegal poaching of marine turtle eggs, the Philippine Navy (PN) under the leadership of the then Commanding Officer of Naval Station Pag-Asa (NSPA), LTJG NOEL JOSEPH B CADIGAL, and his men initiated the establishment of a 5m x 5m marine turtle hatchery in the island in August 2008. The PN named the facility, Good Men’s Contribution to Nature (GMC) Hatchery.
To date, a total of 3,449 green turtle hatchlings that emerged from the 39 nests transplanted into the said hatchery have been released. A volunteer named Obnor Lenasic, resident of Kalayaan, who was trained by DENR on species identification and tagging in 2006 was able to release 412 green turtle hatchlings which he initially protected in 2007. He also tagged 14 green turtle nesters in 2008. At present, he is taking care of 6 green turtle nests containing 372 eggs which he transplanted in his backyard. He is now temporarily employed as Radio Operator of LGU-Kalayaan. Aside from marine turtles, some species of seabirds such as seagulls, boobies and terns rest, breed and winter in Kalayaan.
Lawak Island is a bird sanctuary. It was disclosed in the training that foreign fishermen allegedly encroach Kalayaan waters and use dynamite and potassium cyanide in their fishing operations. These illegal methods of fishing are destructive to marine life and coral reefs. LGU-Kalayaan plans to establish Likas Island as a marine turtle sanctuary and construct a hatchery in Pag-asa Island. In order to curb the illegal poaching of turtle eggs and trading of marine turtles, the local officials intend to pass a municipal ordinance on marine turtle conservation and protection. The LGU is also interested to formalize partnership with the DENR on marine turtle conservation.
PAWB and LGU-Kalayaan co-sponsored the training with assistance from PENRO-Palawan, PCSDS, 570th CTW of the PAF, NAVFORWEST and PCG. Ms. Glenda M. Cadigal of PCSDS discussed the salient features of Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act. She also informed the participants that PCSDS won the case against the Chinese fishermen caught poaching marine turtles off Kalayaan Islands in Palawan in 2006. Out of the seven (7) species of marine turtles in the world, five (5) are found in the Philippines and three of the 5 species nest in our beaches. All species of marine turtles are listed as endangered with the hawksbill turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata, as critically endangered. Republic Act 9147 prohibits the killing, injuring, trading, collecting, hunting, gathering their nests or eggs, transporting and possessing of endangered wildlife including marine turtles, their by-products and derivatives. Violators could be fined from Php 100,000.00 to Php 1,000,000.00 and/or imprisoned from 6 to 12 years.