Action plan for Balabac’s crocs, initiated
After THREE days of workshop to resolve the conflict between the crocodiles and the residents of Balabac, stakeholders were able to determine short and long-term solutions that will be consolidated by Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS)into a concrete action plan.
The participatory consultation and planning workshop held by PCSDS and USAID Protect Wildlife
last April 22 to 24 at Publacion, Balabac, convened 200 representatives from the public and private sectors
of Balabac to address the issue of human-crocodile conflict.
Balabac island has one of the densest populations of saltwater crocodile in the country From year 2000 to 2019, 28 crocodile attacks were recorded by PCSDS, 13 of which occurred in Balabac.
The attacks triggered mixed response not just from the residents of Balabac, but from the whole province. Some demand the removal of these predators, while some opposes. One thing sure is that the conflict must be addressed to protect both the humans and the crocodiles.
To bridge the gap of Science and the incidents, reports related to the study of crocodile were presented by Crocodylus Porosus Philippines Inc. (CPPI) during the workshop, while PCSDS discussed the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protect Act (RA 9147).
Through the guidance of experts from CPPI, participants were able to identify activities in the island that trigger crocodile attacks. Some of these include the discharging of kitchen wastes directly to the sea, harvesting of mangroves, and tending livestock near the crocodiles’ habitat.
After identifying the problems, they proposed corresponding solutions for each of the issues. PCSDS Planning Development Officer IV Levita Lagrada said, “Basically, the Action Plan is the consolidated solutions proposed by the participants.
“First draft will be finished before May ends. It will then be finalized, and if the Council [Palawan Council for Sustainable Development] approves, it will be endorsed to concerned entities. . .”
She said PCSDS will create working groups who will focus on the implementation of the plans.
The whole planning workshop was in partnership with USAID Protect Wildlife with the cooperation of CPPI, Provincial Planning and Development Office, Provincial Tourism Office, Katala Foundation Inc., CPPI, Palawan Wildlife
and Conservation Center-DENR, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, PNP Maritime 2nd SOU and the Municipal Government of Balabac.
CHANGED PERSPECTIVE TOWARD CROCODILES
During the workshop, Rainer Manalo taught the nature of crocodiles and their ecological significance.
He mentioned the way of living of Manobo Tribe in Agusan Del Sur, where humans are able to peacefully live in areas inhibited by crocodiles.
Crocodiles help in the fish production, Manalo said. Their movements plow the river beds causing nutrients to arise, thus, feeding the fishes.
He said the Manobo tribe sees crocodiles as an indicator of a healthy fish sanctuary.
Manalo reminded that unauthorized removal of crocodiles in the wild enables the remaining crocodiles in the area to expand territory and grow into larger sizes, capable of attacking humans.
The best solution, he said, is to stop the destruction of the crocodiles’ habitat.
Before the workshop ended, one of the barangay officers in Balabac expressed his gratitude for having such event and said, “Maganda na nagkaroon tayo ng pag-uusap kung ano nga ba ang buwaya, ang sa akin lang, gusto ko sanang malaman pa ito ng lahat ng mga tao dito, lalo na yung mga wala dito.”
Another public officer of the Municipality of Balabac said, “Ako noon, kayo man, galit sa
buwaya. Pero naliwanagan tayo na hindi pala kaaway ang mga buwaya sa mabuting paraan.”
He said he is hundred percent positive that the whole Balabac population will learn to value the crocodiles within 10 years if everyone in the workshop will work together.