A rescued pawikan (photo from bataan.gov.ph)by NESTOR B. RAMIREZ, VERA Files
CEBU CITY—Police in this city have been ordered to stop patronizing eateries that offer pawikan meat and instead do their job and catch people who violate the law banning the capture, slaughter and sale of the endangered sea turtle.
Police violation of the Wildlife Conservation Act, or Republic Act No. 9147 will not be tolerated, City Police Chief Supt. Melvin Buenafe said. Violators of RA 9147 face imprisonment of up to one year and fine of up to P100,000.
"Bilang mga law enforcers dapat mag-serve silang halimbawa (As law enforcers, they should serve as good example,)" he said.
VERA Files reported on Monday that policemen here are among the customers of an eatery in Barangay Pasil that serves pawikan stew, said to be an aphrodisiac.
Buenafe said he has ordered the investigation of policemen in Station 6 based in the barangay to find out if they are among the eatery's customers, if they know the presence of the eatery and if they have done anything about this.
He also urged the public to report and take photos of policemen patronizing the illegal business.
Earlier, Maximo Dichoso, regional executive director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, announced the formation of an eight-member special task force that will go after restaurants selling pawikan meat.
Costumers have been flocking to the makeshift eatery in Pasil whose pawikan meat supply comes from fishermen from the neighboring islets of Bohol. Middlemen bring pawikan meat to the shoreline barangay of Pasil through its small port.
Chief Insp. Noel Lomente, head of Station 6, said he was aware of the selling of pawikan dishes in Pasil and reported this to DENR officials last year.
He said the source of pawikan meat has long stopped the illegal activity after they conducted an information campaign among the ambulant vendors in the area but that because of its popularity, people would still go to the area looking for pawikan meat.
He said the supply of pawikan meat is scarce these days, but does not discount the possibility that some eateries still sell the meat every now and then or on a per order basis.
Celeste Gabrino, chief of the Fisheries Division of the Cebu City Veterinary's Office, said Mayor Michael Rama has directed them to closely monitor the entry of pawikan meat in the market.
Gabrino assured, however, that no pawikan meat is sold inside the market and that the "hot" meat is delivered directly to ambulant vendors.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")