MORE than 90 kilos of chopped meat from six slaughtered Philippine green sea turtles or pawikan were recovered by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 and the Cebu City Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification, Enhancement (Probe) during a buy-bust in Barangay Pasil, Cebu City on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
Cresley Obatay, Donesa Obatay Bustamante, Ariesteo Pableo, Julio Abunta and Clifford Obatay were arrested by NBI and Probe personnel after they were caught selling and cooking turtle meat.
The operation was conducted following a two-month surveillance initiated by the NBI, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Probe at an eatery on F. Rallos St. in Barangay Pasil owned by Cresley and Bustamante.
Aside from 94.5 kilos of fresh turtle meat, also recovered from the five suspects were at least 20 kilos of cooked turtle stew or “linarang pawikan.”
The responding operatives found that the suspects would sell the sea turtle meat for P200 per kilo while a serving of sea turtle stew, locally known as “linarang,” could be sold for P90 per serving.
Locals would call the stew “power” because it reportedly had aphrodisiac capabilities.
Rogelio Demelletes Jr., DENR 7 specialist, said one of the slaughtered turtles was previously tagged by the Malaysian Government’s Environmental Bureau.
In an interview, Bustamante, who served as store cashier, said they had been selling turtle stew for many years, but they never knew the identity of the person who delivered the turtle meat.
DENR 7 Director Gilbert Gonzales said they immediately sued the five suspects before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office at around 4:56 p.m. on Tuesday.
Violating RA 9147, specifically killing and destroying wildlife species, is punishable by imprisonment from four to six years and a fine of P50,000 to P500,000.
Gonzales also warned the public that charges can be filed against individuals who patronize and eat sea turtle dishes.
“The best measure to prevent and stop the collection and selling of these marine turtles is to encourage everyone not to patronize, buy or eat these pawikan dishes because they play a very essential role in our marine biodiversity,” Gonzales added.
From 2015 to 2018, the DENR 7 has filed 17 cases against those who were caught hunting animals that are considered endangered species.
Jimmy Panebio, DENR 7 Enforcement Division development management officer, said that of the 17 cases they filed, four cases resulted in convictions, 12 are currently on trial while one was dismissed. (from AZLG of SuperBalita Cebu, MVG/JKV)