• Solon wants Turtle Islands declared as protected area to save green sea turtles

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    A lawmaker is urging Congress to declare a major nesting site of the endangered green sea turtle in Tawi-Tawi as a wildlife sanctuary.

    Rep. Ruby M. Sahali (1st District, Tawi-Tawi) filed House Bill 2771, which seeks to declare the Turtle Islands in Tawi-Tawi as a Protected Area (PA).

    The Turtle Islands, which was established as a marine sanctuary by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 171 on August 26, 1999, is among the only 10 breeding grounds for green sea turtles in the world, hence the need to protect them.

    The bill places the PA under the control and administration of a Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and empowers PAMB with functions such as to conduct studies on various characteristic, features and conditions of the Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary.

    The PAMB is also mandated to adopt and enforce a land-use scheme and zoning plan in adjoining areas for the preservation and control of activities that may threaten the ecological balance in the PA, among others.

    The measure provides for the composition of the PAMB to include the regional executive director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 9 as chairman and 10 members representing non-government organizations, people’s organizations, government agencies, the academe, officers from the provincial, municipal and barangay levels and representatives from each tribal community.

    The bill creates a PA superintendent’s office in charge of the management, protection and administration of the PA and shall be supported by the existing personnel of the DENR.

    Sahali said the head of office shall be the chief operating officer of the Turtle Islands or PA and shall be accountable to the Regional Executive Director of the DENR-9 and the PAMB.

    Among the acts prohibited under the bill include hunting, destroying, disturbing, or mere possession of any plant or animal products derived therefrom without a permit from PAMB; dumping of any water products detrimental to the PA, or to the plants and animals or inhabitants therein; as well as extraction of flora and fauna.

    The penalty of imprisonment of not more than six years or a fine of not more than P500,000 shall be imposed on any person who violates this Act or any rules and regulations issued by the DENR pursuant to this Act and found guilty by a competent court

    Sahali said it is incumbent upon Congress to declare the Turtle Islands as a Protected Area in order to safeguard its ecological significance and protect the diminishing population of the green sea turtle including the terrestrial and marine ecosystems and resources, and its hosts, as well as provide for its regimented management. PNA

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