By Greg Refraccion
MORONG, Bataan, Philippines — At least 100 Olive Ridley sea turtle hatchlings were released into the waters of Barangay Nagbalayong here as part of the celebration of the town’s Pawikan Festival on Dec. 2.
Sen. Loren Legarda led Bataan officials in releasing the hatchlings to mark the eighth year of the festival that focuses on local marine conservation efforts.
Mayor Cynthia Estanislao said efforts to conserve marine turtles here allowed advocates to release 52,000 hatchlings to the sea since 2004.
It was a feat which Legarda lauded, saying some local communities still treat the turtles as a delicacy.
In a statement, Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on climate change, said: “Pawikan are majestic creatures found throughout the country. However, because of poaching, theft of their eggs for commercial purposes and destruction of their habitat, they are in danger of becoming extinct.”
“There is no denying that we have become the biggest threat to their existence and to the existence of many other species of animals,” she said.
“I laud the local government of Bataan for their initiatives to protect, conserve and rehabilitate the pawikan population. Future generations will be thankful for the concerted action they have achieved,” she said.
The Pawikan Conservation Center here was developed in 2004 due to the collaboration between a group of environmental advocates called Bantay Pawikan, headed by Manolo Ebias, Bataan Gov. Enrique Garcia Jr. and his wife, Victoria, chair of Bataan Tourism Council Foundation.
Estanislao said environment advocates from other areas, like Bicol, visit the center to learn from its success.