Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines
Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY– The man who was seen sitting on top of a giant “pawikan” in a sea village in Marabut town, Samar may face charges. That is if it would be established that he violated certain provisions of Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Act. The said law imposes penalty against a person who causes harm to an endangered species like the giant turtle that was accidentally caught by a fisherman in Barangay Pinamitinan last Wednesday, August5.

As of this writing, the regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is still conducting its investigation over the incident. Center on the probe is one Jose Lastimado who took his picture on top of the turtle and which he posted on his Facebook account that immediately went viral. Lastimado was later identified to be once the president of the town’s association of barangay chairman.

The pawikan, a leatherback marine turtle (Democheleys coriacea) was caught by fisherman Jessy Amora at around 1 early morning last August 5. The leatherback turtle categorized an endangered species measures six feet in length and 36 inches in width of carapace. The weight was unknown. It was pushed back to the sea around 11:30 am on the same day with the help of about 10 men.

The animal was said to be in healthy condition and whatever scratches seen at its carapace was mainly due to the fishnet. Corazon Makabenta, officer-in-charge chief of the conservation and development division of the DENR-8, said that the viral photos posted in social media, were taken before their team arrived in Pinamitinan.

Aside from the DENR, teams coming from the Department of Agriculture and the local government of Marabut also went to the village for the documentation and the release of the leatherback turtle. DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Theresa Mundita Lim also was alerted on the viral FB post that she immediately requested the DENR regional office to take appropriate action.

But according to Makabenta, DENR regional executive director Leonardo Siballuca had already took action on it on the same day. The office coordinated with Marabut Mayor Percival Ortillo and immediately ordered the release of the turtle back at its original habitat at 11:00 a.m. of the same day. The release was witnessed by the Marabut Bantay Dagat, Shirley Galanza officer of the Department of Agriculture and DENR personnel. It is called leatherback turtle because of its leathery and rubbery shell its distinct characteristic from the common hard-bony turtle shells. The pawikan grows up to seven feet in length and up to 900 lbs.

Makabenta said that the DENR has been campaigning for the protection of the environment and deputized Wildlife Environment Officers. (VICKY C.ARNAIZ)