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Sea turtle conservation, coastal clean-up drive gain grounds

Cavite’s Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) reported an increased citizen participation in protecting the number of “pawikan” (sea turtle) hatchlings during the town's 7th “Pawikan Festival” at Labac Beachfront on Friday.

PENRO Information Officer and Focal Person of Manila Bay Coordinating Office Judaline Fabro said that in terms of egg emergence and percentage of returning sea turtles to Naic’s coastlines , from 300-700 since they started the campaign 7 years ago, “it (the number) increased to thousands, the highest so far is 1,900.”

Sea turtles, referred to as Ambassadors of the sea, are one of the indicators of a clean ecosystem.

Although, the chances of hatchlings’ survival is at the minimum 1%, Fabro is still positive that with the increased population, “we are also increasing the number of surviving sea turtles.”

Since the advocacy’s launching in 2011, Fabro boasts that more coast line patrollers are in place, manning the coastlines for free, with just minimal assistance like coffee, patrol gears (boots, jacket as they patrol during wee hours), and head light from the provincial and municipal ENRO.

Also, “the community here, even the children, now know what to do or who to call when they see returning sea turtles and its eggs.”

Fabro disclosed that even Cavite’s other coastal cities/towns like Bacoor, Cavite City, Kawit, Noveleta and Tanza “now know what to do when they spot a hatching sea turtle and what to do with its hatchlings.”

The town of Naic, where 10 of its barangays are located in coastal area, annually celebrates it “Pawikan Festival” to drumbeat PENRO’s information campaign to save the sea turtles which are now in its vulnerable stage to be endangered due to irresponsible killing for meat and illegal trade of its shell and other body parts.

Friday’s event also meant to echo the importance of cleaning Manila Bay, “so that creatures like sea turtles can live and multiply,” added Fabro.

The activity culminates with the release of 88 hatchlings at sundown.

The 5:00 p.m. release was to protect them, as sea turtles are known to raise their heads to breathe, predators like birds won’t easily spot them at this time.

It’s heartwarming to hear from those present their send-off wishes to the hatchlings, that may all of them survive, and that they hope to see them again in 25-30 years, where sea turtles are believed to go back where they were hatched to lay their eggs.

Gladys Pino / PNA