By Manuel T. Cayon & Jonathan L. Mayuga
DAVAO CITY—A coastal marine park here maintained by the Aboitiz group continued to be a productive nestling site of sea turtles, with caretakers finding 238 pawikan hatchlings this year and released in April.
The Aboitiz group said the year 2019 “has got off to a good start as Davao Light and Power Co. Inc. welcomed a total of 238 pawikan hatchlings at the Cleanery Park in Sitio Punta Dumalag, Matina Aplaya.”
On April 3, caretakers released 92 hatchlings of pawikan, as marine turtles are called in Filipino, out into the sea and, on the next day, 10 more were released after being found trapped in the nest.
“These hatchlings came from pawikan nest No. 1, which was found laid at the Cleanergy Park on February 3,” the Aboitiz-owned Davao Light said.
On April 18, another set of pawikan eggs were hatched from nest No. 2, whose eggs were earlier discovered at the park on February 19.
In that nest, a total of 94 hatchlings were found and released on the same day. The following day, 42 additional hatchlings were released. These were also found trapped inside the nest, the Davao Light added.
“We must double our conservation efforts in preventing trash from reaching the ocean, especially because sea turtles and other marine creatures mistake plastics and other garbage as food. In this way, we are not just helping save the pawikan but we are also helping sustain the environment. Thus, advancing business and communities,” said Rodger S. Velasco, Davao Light director, president and COO.
He said the April 18 release of pawikan hatchlings were witnessed by 200 visitors, including children.
More pawikan visits are expected in the remaining months of the year, the Davao Light said.
Cleanergy Park is a project of Davao Light and Power Co., an AboitizPower subsidiary, in partnership with the Aboitiz Foundation. The Davao Light said the area “is a biodiversity park that is aimed to help preserve the pawikan nesting grounds, be a home of many thriving bird species and help maintain ecological balance for other sea and land creatures.”
Meanwhile, a previously undiscovered nest inside a coal-fired power plant in Davao City has yielded a total of 115 marine turtle hatchlings that made their way to the sea on March 29.
The marine turtle hatchlings that were released on March 29, an army of olive ridley turtles, emerged from what is now considered the third protected marine turtle nests along the shore of the coal-fired power plant of AboitizPower’s wholly owned subsidiary, Therma South Inc. TSI is the owner and operator of the 300-megawatt Davao Baseload Power Plant in Binugao, Toril, Davao City.
Incidentally, TSI named this batch of sea turtle hatchlings “Team Stingray” after Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s son, whose birthday happens to be on the same day.
Marine turtles are a globally threatened species. The olive ridley turtle is one of the seven marine turtle species.
The global population of the marine turtles is on the decline because of the unabated poaching for their meat, shell and eggs, while their reproduction is mired by habitat destruction, accidental bycatch, ocean plastic pollution and climate change.
Five of the seven known marine turtle species can be found in the Philippines. The county hosts one of the most important nesting sites of the green turtles—the Turtle Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Tawi-Tawi province—in Southeast Asia.
The Philippines is a party to the Bonn Convention, or the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.
Marine turtles are protected in the country under various environmental laws—such as Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, and Republic Act 7586, or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (Nipas) Act as amended by Republic Act 11038, or the Expanded Nipas Act, which provides protection to protected areas and the wildlife found within these areas set aside for conservation.
The Philippines, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has an ongoing program to protect and conserve pawikan—the Pawikan Conservation Project—which is supported by various local governments and private-sector conservation partners.
Since December last year, three marine sea turtle nests were discovered within the vicinity of TSI’s power plant.
The first nest was found on December 14, 2018, and the second was found on February 23.
Since the discovery of the nests, TSI has worked with various groups, including the team from the group’s pawikan conservatory in Aboitiz Cleanergy Park in Punta Dumalag, to ensure that the nests inside TSI are well-protected and well-cared for.
“This occurrence reinforces the diversity of marine ecosystem in the city. Having a coal-fired power plant playing host to these hatchlings makes this event even more interesting,” Duterte-Carpio was quoted as saying in a statement released by AboitizPower. Duterte-Carpio was supposed to lead the releasing of the marine turtle hatchlings but failed to, owing to prior engagements.
DENR-Davao Region Assistant Secretary Ruth Tawantawan extended her congratulations to TSI and its efforts in protecting the nests and the marine ecosystem.
“The hatching of the pawikan has been an eye-opening experience. It is a small indicator that our environmental stewardship efforts are bearing fruit. The presence of these endangered creatures inside the plant is proof of sustainable environmental conditions resulting from the steps we have taken to operate our power plants responsibly,” said Danel Aboitiz, president and COO of AboitizPower-Coal Business Unit.
Since sea turtles come back to the place where they hatch through their magnetic imprinting, it is thought that there might be other nests in the area.
When the released hatchlings grow up, they may come back to the area to lay new nests and repeat the cycle.
Because of this, TSI plans to engage the community and experts to ensure that the shorelines remain pristine and conducive for pawikan nesting in the years to come.
TSI is certified with three ISO standards, namely Quality Management (ISO 9001:2015), Environmental Management (ISO 14001:2015), and Occupational Health and Safety Management (18001:2007).
Together with Therma Luzon Inc. and Therma Visayas Inc., the three primarily comprise the Coal Business Unit of AboitizPower.
Image credits: Franz Jonathan G. de la Fuente/Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc.