The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has designated a protected habitat to ensure the survival of critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtles, or more popularly known locally as “Pawikan,” in northeastern Mindanao.
The establishment of a 612-hectare critical area in the town of Magsaysay, Misamis Oriental, has brought the total land area of protected habitat to 6,300 hectares in northeastern Mindanao.
The designation of Magsaysay Critical Habitat for Hawksbill Turtles (MCHHT) was embodied in DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2016-02, establishing the coastal barangays of Kadiis, San Isidro and Damayohan as wildlife critical habitats where a total of 63 nesting sites of hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricate) could be found.
The Hawksbill Sea Turtle has been listed as one of the most endangered species in the Philippines. It was named as such for their narrow, pointed beak, and is a medium-size turtle that lives in the Philippines.
Despite the law that protects Pawikans, humans still hunt them for their flesh and shells, eat their eggs and usually capture them accidentally in fishing nets.
DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said the new directive complemented DAO 2012-18, which he issued in October 2012, designating a 5,756-hectare coastal area as “Carmen Critical Habitat for Marine Turtles,” which covers the coastal barangays of Vinapor, Gosoon, San Agustin, Cahayagan and Tagcatong in Carmen, Agusan del Norte.
“The two administrative orders are a culmination of an eight-year-old collaborative work by our field officers with local executives and residents of Carmen and Magsaysay municipalities,” Paje said.
It was in 2008 when the DENR conducted a series of marine wildlife assessment studies in Carmen and observed that sea turtles were nesting in town’s five coastal barangays.
This prompted local authorities to expand the study area to adjacent barangays of Magsaysay town and came up with the same observations.
“With the designation of MCHHT, we now have a total of more than 6,300 hectares that provide safe haven for the critically endangered marine turtles,” Paje said.
He added that the MCHHT, being a critical habitat area, is now “protected from business activities” like quarrying, mineral exploration and extraction, as well as logging.
“This is to protect the nesting sites and population of the critically endangered hawksbill turtle along with other wildlife species pursuant to Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act,” Paje said.
Other established critical habitats include the Adams Wildlife Critical Habitat in Adams, Ilocos Norte (3,253 hectares); Malasi Tree Park and Wildlife Sanctuary Critical Habitat (178 hectares) in Cabagan, Isabela; Cabusao Wetland Critical Habitat (26.9 hectares) in Cabusao, Camarines Sur; Rafflesia schadenbergiana Critical Habitat (2 hectares) in Baungon, Bukidnon; and the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (15.3 hectares) in Parañaque and Las Piñas, Metro Manila.
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