DENR expands ‘safe haven’ for endangered marine turtles

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has designated a 612-hectare area in the town of Magsaysay, Misamis Oriental as a critical habitat for hawksbill sea turtles, bringing to more than 6,300 hectares the total area being protected in Northeastern Mindanao to ensure the survival of the critically endangered marine species.

The designation of Magsaysay Critical Habitat for Hawksbill Turtles (MCHHT) is embodied in DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2016-02, establishing the coastal barangays of Kadiis, San Isidro and Damayohan as wildlife critical habitats where a total of 6 nesting sites of hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricate) are found.

DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje said the new directive is tied to DAO 2012-18 he issued in October 2012, designating a 5,756-hectare coastal area as “Carmen Critical Habitat for Marine Turtles” which covers the coastal barangays of Vinapor, Gosoon, San Agustin, Cahayagan and Tagcatong in Carmen, Agusan del Norte province.

“The two administrative orders are a culmination of an eight-year-old collaborative work by our field officers with local executives and residents of Carmen and Magsaysay municipalities,” Paje said.

It was in 2008 when the DENR conducted a series of marine wildlife assessment studies in Carmen and observed that sea turtles were nesting in town’s five coastal barangays. This prompted local authorities to expand the study area to adjacent barangays of Magsaysay (Misamis Oriental), and came up with the same observations.

“With the designation of MCHHT, we now have a total of more than 6,300 hectares that provide safe haven for the critically endangered marine turtles,” Paje said.

 

Paje said the MCHHT, being a critical habitat area, is now “protected from business activities” like quarrying, mineral exploration and extraction, as well as logging.

“This is to protect the nesting sites and population of the critically endangered hawksbill turtle along with other wildlife species pursuant to Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act,” the environment chief said.

The directive requires the preparation of an MCHHT Management Plan, which contains details about management issues and strategies to sustainably develop the area, including rehabilitation, community organization, promotion of environmental education and ecotourism.

Paje said the involvement of the local government and other stakeholders would ensure the area’s viability as habitat for wildlife species even in the presence of ecotourism development and other human activities.

“The order enjoins the participation of the local government and all stakeholders from planning to the implementation of the MCHHT Management Plan, encouraging them to be sustainable in their efforts as they would also stand to benefit the most from the health of the environment,” Paje said.

He also cited the “invaluable support” of the local executives of Carmen and Magsaysay towns who approved resolutions for the establishment of the two critical habitats.

Paje said the establishment of critical habitats is pursuant to Sections 4 and 25 of RA 9147, which mandate the DENR to establish and manage critical habitats in areas within its jurisdiction but outside protected areas declared under RA 7586, or the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) Act of 1992.

“Declaring a critical habitat outside NIPAS areas secures the posterity of threatened species. It also imparts ownership to concerned local communities of the shared responsibility to work with us in protecting and conserving critically endangered species such as the hawksbill sea turtle which has found a home in Carmen and Magsaysay,” he said.

Other established critical habitats include the Adams Wildlife Critical Habitat in Adams, Ilocos Norte (3,253 hectares); Malasi Tree Park and Wildlife Sanctuary Critical Habitat (178 hectares) in Cabagan, Isabela; Cabusao Wetland Critical Habitat (26.9 hectares) in Cabusao, Camarines Sur; Rafflesia schadenbergiana Critical Habitat (2 hectares) in Baungon, Bukidnon; and the Las Piñas – Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (15.3 hectares) in Paranaque and Las Pinas, Metro Manila. ###