February 15, 2016
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recently expanded the scope of protected areas in the northeastern part of Mindanao to ensure the survival of the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles.
Through DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 2016-02, a 612-hectare area in the town of Magsaysay, Misamis Oriental has been designated as the Magsaysay Critical Habitat for Hawksbill Turtles (MCHHT).
With the designation of MCHHT, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said this brings to more than 6,300 hectares the total area being protected in northeastern Mindanao to help ensure the safety of the endangered sea turtles and their nests.
The MCHHT established the coastal barangays of Kadiis, San Isidro and Damayohan in Magsaysay as wildlife critical habitats, where a total of 63 nesting sites of hawksbill sea turtles are found.
A hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate) could be distinguished by its sharp and curving beak and saw-like appearance of its shell margins.
Like many sea turtles, hawksbills are a critically endangered species due mostly to human impact.
Their nesting habitat is at risk to fast growing tourism and recreational activities.
Destruction of coral reefs also destroy their resting habitat and food source.
Paje said the MCHHT is now “protected from business activities” like quarrying, mineral exploration and extraction, as well as logging.
“This will protect the nesting sites and population of the critically endangered hawksbill turtle along with other wildlife species pursuant to Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act,” he noted.
Paje said the directive requires the preparation of an MCHHT Management Plan, which contains details on management issues and strategies to sustainably develop the area, including rehabilitation, community organization, promotion of environmental education and ecotourism.
He said the order enjoins the participation of the local government and all stakeholders from planning to the implementation of the plan.
“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,” he noted.
Paje said the new directive is tied to DAO 2012-18 he issued in October 2012 that designated a 5,756-hectare coastal area in Carmen, Agusan del Norte as “Carmen Critical Habitat for Marine Turtles,” which covers the coastal barangays of Vinapor, Gosoon, San Agustin, Cahayagan and Tagcatong.
“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,” he said.
In 2008, 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.
Authorities expanded the study area to adjacent barangays of Magsaysay in Misamis Oriental and came up with the same observations.
Paje cited the “invaluable support” of the local executives of Carmen and Magsaysay towns, who approved the resolutions for the establishment of the two critical habitats.
He said the establishment of critical habitats is pursuant to 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,” he noted.
“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 added.
Other established critical habitats in the country 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.