By Delfin T. Mallari Jr.
LUCENA CITY, Philippines — Environmentalists, students and local officials set free 197 Olive Ridley sea turtle (pawikan) hatchlings to their natural habitat in Tayabas Bay in Sariaya town, now known as a haven of baby sea turtles.
Ernesto Amores Jr., Sariaya municipal agriculture officer, said the baby turtles were released in batches early this week. The last batch was freed on Tuesday in the coastal villages of Bignay II, San Roque and Castañas.
Efrelyn Escultura-Calabano, special project officer of Tanggol Kalikasan-Southern Tagalog, said the release was witnessed by families of fishermen, fish wardens, students from Southern Luzon State University and local government officials.
The local government has been promoting Sariaya, home to beach resorts and other tourist-oriented businesses, as a “home of sea turtles.”
Once a marine habitat ruined by destructive fishing practices, Tayabas Bay is now a sanctuary for endangered sea turtles after local officials and businessmen initiated a program to rehabilitate the bay and launched the “Save the Endangered Species Campaign” in 2003.