DAVAO: ABOITIZ SAVES ENDANGERED TURTLES

PUNTA DUMALAG, September 27, 2003  (MALAYA) It was a secret 28-year-old fisherman Bobby Onin kept for eight years until he finally let the "turtle" out of the bag.

Onin's revelation last month of a turtle's nesting site in an Aboitiz family-owned property in Punta Dumalag, a coastal community along Davao Gulf in Matina Aplaya, Davao City, sparked anew public interest in biodiversity that launched a joint massive conservation effort between local government and the Aboitiz Group of Companies.

The find is remarkable, considering the nesting ground happens to be just a stone's throw from densely populated villages in urban Davao.

The area contains egg clusters of the endangered hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), one of the Philippines' four turtle species listed endanged by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Locally known as "pawikan", sea turtles teeter at the brink of extinction. Predators that prey on vulnerable hatchlings and human pressures like habitat destruction, sea pollution, and utter ignorance have swiftly decimated their populations. They are hunted for their beautiful carapace, their eggs, skin and meat that is a highly prized ingredient in Asian cuisine.

The Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC), a subsidiary of the Aboitiz Group of Companies, which has property rights, has expressed its strong corporate environmental commitment through a sustainable marine turtle conservation program.

The 19-hectare land was acquired in the 1960s as a planned site for a coal-powered plant. It was put on hold in favor of environmental safety and well-being.

"The company will fund it all the way," says Alfonso Y. Aboitiz, DPLC president.

He has ordered the area secured from turtle egg poachers and curious residents.

His company has also funded the inspection trip made by marine biologists to present a comprehensive assessment of the nesting area through barangay profiling, habitat assessment and environmental education.est percentage of land under protection, at more than 25 percent each.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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