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Labanay Folks Fail to Learn Lesson

What happened at the sea turtle nesting site at Bosdak beach resort on Aug. 24 shows that the government, particularly the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, needs to do more in terms of educating the people on protecting our natural resources.

The caretakers of the resort, couple Peter and Joan Panti and their seven-year old child Mark Gerwin, were walking along the beach when they spotted a sea turtle digging into the sand, apparently about to lay its eggs. Instead of leaving the turtle alone, they, along with Felix and Juqueta Tabilog, captured the turtle. Barangay officials decided to bring the turtle to the beach house of Engr. Jorge Reyes at Sitio Labanay for safekeeping.

Reyes contacted the local office of the DENR, which sent Juliet Araojo and Edith Milan the following day although it was a Saturday. The duo had just released a green sea turtle at Twin Rock beach resort, the 19th successfully returned to the wild under Gov. Joseph Cua’s Save Our Sea Turtles program.

They determined the Bosdak turtle to be of the same specie (Chelonia mydas), 90 centimeter long measured at the top of its carapace and about 80 to 100 kilos or double the Twin Rock turtle.

Prior to the release, they learned from Joan Panti that a former barangay kagawad, one Jose Arcilla, and his group dug up about 30 eggs laid by another sea turtle and took them home. The DENR confirmed this later when Panti showed them four of the white, rubbery eggs which Arcilla allegedly gave her.

Apparently, the people of Sitio Labanay has not learned their lesson on sea turtle conservation. About 10 years ago, a big sea turtle estimated at 200 kilos fell into the deep swimming pool of the resort. It was so heavy that the resort personnel and barangay folk took hours to lift it out of the pool.

The sea creatures have been using the narrow strip of white beach to lay their eggs. And the sitio residents, as demonstrated by the recent incidents, have failed to grasp the potential of having a nesting site within their midst, attracting tourists and boosting the image of the barangay.

As adult female turtles always return to the same beach where they hatched to lay their own eggs, they should expect the gentle creatures to come back every two to four years. PENRO Joaquin Ed Guerrero and CENRO Luvimindo Chioco should lead efforts to convince the people of Labanay of the importance of protecting sea turtles and keeping their nesting sites undisturbed.

Republic Act 9147 imposes the penalty of imprisonment ranging from four to six years plus a fine of P50,000 to P500,000 for the illegal possession of endangered wildlife and their byproducts, such as sea turtles and eggs.

Inside Page, Catanduanes Tribune

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