Environment department readies case vs ‘turtle-eaters’

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Friday, February 3, 2012


DAVAO CITY -- The Environment department in Davao is building a case against the owner of a Korean vessel, its crew, and foreign missionaries onboard for dumping parts of a green sea turtle in a garbage bin in a wharf here.

The move came after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Davao Region was criticized for accepting the public apology of Hannah Parks, owner of the Korean vessel M/V Hannah Parks, during a press conference Tuesday, after some environmental groups and the City Agriculture Office reacted to the killing of the turtle.

DENR-Davao Regional Director Jim O. Sampulna admitted there obviously was a violation of Republic Act 9147, or Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001, although he said, based on the information gathered, the turtle was butchered in Palau.

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“But since it (the killing) happened in Palau, which is outside the jurisdiction of the country, we demanded public apology but it does not mean that the issue was already close,” Sampulna said.

Parks denied they were the ones who caught and killed the turtle, saying it was given to them by the president of Palau during a visit sometime in October. The turtle was consumed and the remains were kept in a freezer as they started traveling to the Philippines in November last year.

“Those parts of the turtle were leftovers of what was butchered in Palau. We did not even know there were leftovers. We are here on a humanitarian mission and never meant to harm anything,” Parks said.

Sampulna said his office, the Protected Areas and Wildlife Division personnel and some members of the Maritime Group and Coast Guard are now conducting a thorough investigation on the incident.

Sampulna said they sent a letter to the management of TV5 network Friday, requesting for a copy of the video footage its crew took of the dumping of turtle’s parts at a bin in Sta. Ana pier.

The network was also asked to submit an affidavit and stand as witness to the case that the DENR will be filing.

The department is also calling on local residents who saw the actual throwing of the turtle’s head and indelible parts to come out and give their sworn statement about the incident.

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources National Director Asis Perez, meanwhile, said the DENR should have conducted a thorough investigation before accepting the public apology, adding it is so easy for Parks to say that the turtle was caught and butchered in a foreign land.

Earlier, City Mayor Sara Duterte urged the City Council to pass a resolution declaring Parks, the vessel crew and the missionaries as persona non grata or unwelcome persons in the city.

“They should understand that we don't tolerate this (act) in our city. We have supported their visit so they should respect the city,” she said.

However, City Council assistant secretary Charito Santos said she hasn’t received any information yet whether the council intends to schedule a special session for the mayor’s request.

Green sea turtles are listed in Appendix I of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). Being included in Appendix 1 means a species is threatened with extinction and affected by trade.

Commercial trade in wild-caught specimens of these species is illegal (permitted only in exceptional licensed circumstances).

The Republic of Korea, Palau, and Indonesia, along with the Philippines, are among the 175 countries that are signatories to Cites. (Jereco O. Paloma/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 04, 2012.

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