A unit of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it found no reason to object to the decision of the local government unit (LGU) to transfer a two-decade-old marine turtle hatchery being run and managed by a community-based group in Mati City, Davao Oriental.
Nermalie M. Lita, chief of the Wildlife Regulation Section of the DENR-BMB, said, “For sound management of the marine hatchery, the transfer of the facility from the Amihan sa Dahican to Menzi Visitor’s Information Center in Dahican is deemed appropriate.”
Lita’s statement was in reaction to a BusinessMirror report and query on the complaints raised by members of Amihan sa Dahican-Balod sa Paglaon Inc, It forms parr of the findings of the DENR, a copy of which was e-mailed to the BusinessMirror.
The statement added that the Mati LGU has the management jurisdiction over the land, hence, has the authority or jurisdiction over the allocation of the property, taking into consideration environmental and/or conservation concerns “which the LGU Mati observed with due diligence.”
The DENR-BMB unit chief said the LGU conducted stakeholder meetings on the plan and properly communicated with the Amihan on the proposed relocation and construction of a new marine turtle katchery in a better location.
Mark Bacalso, a board member of Amihan, complained that the LGU sent a demolition crew last week and started to demolish the hatchery despite ongoing talks on their stiff opposition to the plan.
The Amihan members said the 20-year-old hatchery was dismantled allegedly because of the plan to take over their operation, including the community-based ecotourism activities that employ volunteers from the barangay and fund the operation of the hatchery.
DENR officials, led by Undersecretary Jonas R. Leones and Assistant Secretary Marcial C. Amaro, the concurrent director of the DENR-BMB, ordered an immediate investigation when sought for comment by the BusinessMirror.
The DENR-BMB unit said that the investigation established that Amihan is a duly registered organization under the Securities and Exchange Commission, and is a duly accredited nonprofit organization by the City of Mati.
Formerly known as the Amihan Sa Dahican Surf, Skim and Fisherfolks Association, it was a recipient of financial assistance for Ecotourism Development under the Integrated Coastal Resource Management Project CY 2007-12 of DENR Region XI.
It is also acknowledged as a people’s organization partner in biodiversity conservation, particularly on the conservation and protection of marine turtle nests, including the operation of a marine turtle hatchery along the shoreline of Dahican, Mati.
However, the probe revealed that the Mati LGU is the lawful and rightful owner of a 3,000-square meter lot at Dahican and the access road for public use.
It was found that the current location of the marine turtle hatchery in Dahican and the observatory tower is within the foreshore area.
It added that the marine turtles lay eggs anywhere within the Dahican shoreline, and Amihan members merely transfer the eggs to the existing hatchery.
According to the DENR-BMB officials, the current location of the marine turtle hatchery is intended by the Mati City LGU to be used for public access roads, fishermen’s port and for general usage of the shoreline.
The Mati City officials have already constructed a new turtle hatchery at Menzi Visitors Information Center in Dahican which is more suitable than the existing facility.
The new hatchery is along the shores of Dahican beach to protect the eggs from the vibration in the sand called rhythmic pulsation that affects marine turtle egg incubation and hatchlings emergence.
According to the DENR-BMB, the new hatchery at Menzi is guarded by the LGU and is secured, safe and away from foot traffic caused by human activities compared to the old hatcher.
“Based on the series of interviews from various key personnel from Mati, it does not intend to cease the relationship of the [LGU] and with the Amihan sa Dahican-Balod sa Paglaom Inc. as a partner in the conservation of wildlife,” the DENR-BMB unit head said.
However, it was not clear who will be in charge of the operation of the new hatchery and what will happen to the volunteer workers, who act both as conservation workers and tour guides of Amihan, with the reported plan of the LGU to take over the management of the entire Dahican beach area.
Meanwhile, the existing observatory or watch tower in Amihan, Dahican, will be used by Mati LGU as a monitoring station pursuant to the Dahican Shoreline and Access Road Management Task Force Operations Manual 2023.