GUIMARAS - The Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of Guimaras has conducted an investigation on the alleged captivity of a hawksbill turtle in Natago Beach Resort in Barangay Sunapsapan, Guimaras.
The investigation was to verify a Facebook post by Donna Belle Islao about a turtle that was being tied by a rope to prevent it from escaping.
According to the post, which earned a lot of negative comments from netizens, Islao noticed that the turtle has a hole in its back shell in which the rope was attached to.
She said they were also charged P50 for a photo with the turtle.
However, when the team went to the said private resort, the turtle was no longer there.
Maribel Gersabalino, caretaker of the resort, did not deny the post but claimed that the turtle has escaped.
According to her, the said turtle was already sighted previously in the vicinity of the resort. Sometime in January, some fishermen caught it and the owner of the resort, Emcita Respall, offered to buy the turtle.
She said they noticed that the turtle has two holes in its back shell and is weak so they tied the turtle in order to make sure that it would not get lost while they are nursing it back to health.
Initially, they sought advice from the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) which was stationed in Nueva Valencia, Guimaras, but the agency said they had no authority to release the turtle.
She added that they were not aware that it is a violation of Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conversion and Protection Act to capture and possess a turtle.
With regards to the alleged "picture fee," the management clarified that this is not a payment for taking a picture with the turtle, rather it is a donation for the maintenance of the resort.
They explained that since the resort is private, they cannot charge entrance fee for those who want to visit the vicinity so they are only asking for a donation, which is not compulsory.
It was also discovered that the resort is a hatching site for turtles.
Rachel Ann Dequila of Guimaras PENRO explained that it is the nature of the turtles to go back to the place where it is hatched, so they believe that the said turtle was hatched on the shores of Natago Beach Resort.
Gersanbilo said that since the turtle has escaped last May 5, the turtle can still be seen in the shallow waters of the resort. However, they were advised by PENRO not to capture it.
According to PENRO, they were not able to find prima facie evidence of the captivity of the turtle so they will not press any charges against the owner of the resort.
However, they reiterated that it is illegal to collect, maltreat, hunt or possess wildlife. And if any similar incidents happened, they must inform the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. (DENR) right away.
The hawksbill turtle is classified as one of the critically endangered species of sea turtles.