Efforts to conserve ‘pawikan’ in Davao intensifies

Government and industry leaders lead efforts to conserve the pawikan by signing a memorandum of agreement to establish a Pawikan Center. Jaime Jose Y. Aboitiz (center, kneeling) AboitizPower executive vice president and chief operating officer (COO) for Distribution Group, leads the recent release of a hawksbill turtle (pawikan) on the grounds of the Aboitiz Cleanergy Park in Punta Dumalag, Davao City, where a Pawikan Center is set to rise. He is joined by DENR Assistant Secretary Ruth Tawantawan (left, kneeling) and Davao Light COO Rodger Velasco (right, kneeling). Aboitiz Equity Ventures Adviser for Mindanao Art Milan (Second from left, standing) and Davao Light Community Relations Manager Fermin Edillon (second from right, standing) look on.

DAVAO CITY—Conservation efforts for pawikan (marine turtle) continue to intensify as the city government, the environment department and Aboitiz Group renewed their commitments for the preservation and protection of the turtle, particularly the critically endangered hawksbill turtle in Davao City.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, the Aboitiz Group, through its social-development arm Aboitiz Foundation and AboitizPower business unit Davao Light and Power Co., and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) last week to establish the Pawikan Center inside the Aboitiz-owned Cleanergy Park in Punta Dumalag, part of which was declared a protected area.

Officials from the three agencies released that day an Oliver Ridley species of sea turtle back to sea. It was rescued in 2017 and turned over for caretaking at the Crocodile Park. The released turtle was named “Crocy,” to recognize the care of the Crocodile Park on the turtle.

Duterte-Carpio, a daughter of President Duterte, said she would like the rescue center for sea turtle to take shape soon to follow through the consistency of the Aboitiz-owned conservation coastal park as a nesting ground among the endangered sea turtles.

The center has a temporary shelter, clinic, laboratory, observation deck, boardwalks, and other facilities for the rescue, rehabilitation, conservation, protection and care of marine turtles in Punta Dumalag. This supports the multisectoral effort of “pursuing sustainable development within the context of a balanced ecology.”

The center would serve as the rescue and hatchery center—the first for the city to engage in the protection of the nesting ground of sea turtles, one of the most endangered marine species.

Duterte-Carpio said she would assign City Hall personnel to help the center as she also disclosed she would coordinate with the DENR to provide the technical support to ensure that “what we do here is correct and appropriate.”

She would let the Aboitiz group develop the center though, saying “it owned the place.”

“Davao is truly blessed to be a nesting site of marine turtles, a keystone specie in maintaining the balance in our ecosystem. It is clear that the government and the private sector must work together to protect these endangered animals before it becomes too late,” Duterte-Carpio said.

“We commend the Aboitiz Group, Davao Light and Power Co., and the Aboitiz Cleanergy Park,” she added.

“We look forward to the creation of the Pawikan Rescue Center in Punta Dumalag, which will aim to protect the plant and animal life thriving in the marine eco-park,” Duterte-Carpio said.

Ruth Tawantawan, DENR assistant secretary for Eastern Mindanao, said: “Thank you to Aboitiz. The DENR is very blessed to have you. Truly, DENR Sec. Roy Cimato will be grateful.”

Jaime Jose Y. Aboitiz, AboitizPower executive vice president and COO for Distribution Group, said: “Today, after more than 13,000 mangrove seedlings planted and more than 3,000 [pawikan] hatchlings released, we renew our commitment.”  Aboitiz led the conglomerate’s delegation to the MOA signing.

“All over the country, the Aboitiz Group’s response to the DENR’s lead in environmental preservation demonstrates our sustainability mindset. Through the projects we implement together, we ensure that we head full speed toward our promise of advancing business and communities,” he added.

Besides protecting the nesting areas at the park, the Pawikan Center aims to identify, document and address threats to marine turtles and their habitats in Punta Dumalag; promote research, monitoring and information exchange; enhance public awareness on the conservation initiatives in the area; and fortify the collaboration between the public and private sectors  for the long-term recovery of pawikan population in the area.

Mayor Duterte-Carpio said the rescue center would elevate the conservation effort of sea turtles, of which four of the seven known species are found in the Davao Gulf.

The Punta Dumalag area is a land projection into the Davao Gulf of which 37 hectares were declared as marine protected area. The Punta Dumalag waters covers 520 kilometers of coastline of four provinces, five cities and 18 municipalities.

A big portion of Punta Dumalag has been occupied by informal settlers. However, Duterte said their local leaders have been designated to ensure that residents would participate in the regular conservation work in the locality, such as a weekly coastal cleanup and observance of proper waste disposal. Their involvement would help support the protection of Punta Dumalag.

The Aboitiz group said its 8-hectare Cleanergy Park inside the protected Punta Dumalag has noted its consistency as a nesting ground of sea turtles even before it was established in 2015. To date, the park has seen 4,370 eggs laid and hatched and was the place where 3,482 hatchlings were rescued and released.

Aboitiz said its conservation effort at the Cleanergy Park was part of the conglomerate’s bigger environmental participation, including in the government’s National Greening Program and in the recent environmental rehabilitation work in Boracay.

He said the Aboitiz group was poised to plant as many as 9 million trees in Boracay and would make it as another model of restoring the environment in the world-renown beach resort.

The DENR will provide technical assistance, facilitate information and education campaign on marine turtle conservation and establish Punta Dumalag as critical habitat for marine turtles, among others.

Meanwhile, the Davao City government, through local ordinance, will strengthen the enforcement of existing laws on conservation efforts, assist the DENR in the establishment of Punta Dumalag as a critical habitat for the marine turtles, provide manpower support for the project, and furnish the DENR with monitoring reports.

In 2007 the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Davao City declared the shoreline extending 300 meters seaward in Punta Dumalag as a Marine Protected Area. In 2015 Aboitiz inaugurated the Aboitiz Cleanergy Park to serve as an example of an urban-based habitat conservation initiative in the area.