Bicol Region Responds to Pawikan Nesting Incident, Albay Forms Task Force Pawikan

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          A multi-sectoral forum held recently led to the formation of "Albay Task Force Pawikan" with Albay Governor as Chair and DENR Bicol Regional Executive Director as Co-Chair.

     RED Gilbert C. Gonzales of DENR V,  who disclosed that the nesting leatherback turtle in Bgy. Rawis, Legazpi City is by far, the first nesting of leatherback recorded in the country based on DENR Pawikan Conservation Project data, was named co-chair of the newly formed tasked force. In a meeting presided by Albay Board Member Job Belen, the august body sought the protection of the eggs estimated at 80. They are coordinating with line agencies and local barangay officials so with the end view of finally seeing all the eggs hatch and finally released into the wild.

     Twelve entities, foremost is Philippine Navy Forces for Southern Luzon (NAVFORSOL) which hosts the eggs since the leatherback nested within its camp, comprise the Task Force. Also included is the Legazpi City Government with its coastal barangay Rawis, Arimbay, Bigaa, Padang; LGU Sto. Domingo's Bgy. Lidong owed to the possibility of the turtle returning in any of the coastal villages proximate to the Rawis; Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Albay for the necessary legislation support it can extend; the Albay Parks and Wildlife for the release protocol; Provincial Government Environment and Natural Resources Office; the Philippine Information Agency being the information arm of the task force; Buraeau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources; and Philippine Coast Guard.

     To date, massive communication campaign in radio, television and the conduct of barangay assemblies continues in order to rid the site with stray animals, dogs and curious humans who may harm or hamper the hatching of turtle eggs. The DENR Pawikan Conservation Project technical staff is currently conducting site assessment and determining wheter or not it is necessary to relocate the eggs and establish a temporary hatchery at a safer ground. The Barangay officials of Rawis led by Punong Barangay Emmanuel Salamat has been conducting a 24/7 guarding of the vicinity since Monday, July 15. Commander Manuel Natalio Abinuman of NAVFORSOL dispatched his team to patrol the area and to provide guidance to visitors especially media practitioners who are obtaining interview and photo documents.

     Meanwhile, the Task Force is drafting a Resolution that will provide for the protection of the site as a critical habitat of leatherback and other marine turtles, essentially preventing any development in the area that may alter the current terrain, vegetation, and substrate.

     The leatherback turtle seen nesting in So. Bagong Pook, Bgy. Rawis, Legazpi City is the 10th recorded leatherback sighting in the Bicol Region and the third in Albay Gulf since 1990s based on PCP data. It is endangered based on International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listing. The IUCN assesses the status of species globally and determines threat status. Endangered Species are animal or plant species in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range or where it is frequently seen.

Press Release: July 19, 2013