Sea turtles’ safe haven expanded

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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has designated a 612-hectare area in the town of Magsaysay, Misamis Oriental as a critical habitat for hawksbill sea turtles.

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The designation of Magsaysay Critical Habitat for Hawksbill Turtles (MCHHT) is embodied in DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 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) are found.

DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said the new directive is tied to DAO 2012-18 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 province.

“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 the town’s five coastal barangays. This prompted local authorities to expand the study area to the adjacent barangay of Magsaysay in Misamis Oriental, and came up with the same observations.

“With the designation of the MCHHT, we now have a total of more than 6,300 hectares that provide safe haven for the critically endangered marine turtles,” Paje said.

The environment chief said 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,” he added.

“Declaring a critical habitat outside National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) areas secures the posterity of threatened species. It also imparts ownership to concerned local communities of the shared responsibility to work with us in protecting and conserving critically endangered species such as the hawksbill sea turtle which has found a home in Carmen and Magsaysay,” he said.

He also cited the “invaluable support” of the local executives of Carmen and Magsaysay towns who approved resolutions for the establishment of the two critical habitats.

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 Las Piñas and Parañaque, Metro Manila.

James Konstantin Galvez

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