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‘Don’t touch those turtles’

- Aurea Calica () - April 21, 2006 - 12:00am
Please don’t molest marine life, a tourism official reminded diving enthusiasts yesterday.

"It is wrong to harass, chase, touch or hold" marine life while underwater, Tourism Assistant Secretary Cynthia Carrion said, reacting to a recent front-page photo carried by The STAR showing a diver "playing with a turtle."

She said the Department of Tourism’s Philippine Commission on Sport Scuba Diving (PCSSD), of which she is executive director, is trying hard to remind divers to leave marine life untouched because Philippine waters have already lost 90 percent of their biodiversity due to irresponsible divers.

Carrion said some divers have developed the habit of "touching, breaking, stealing corals" and other marine species and thus depleting biodiversity.

"Divers are taught not to harass, chase and much less touch and hold marine life, especially turtles," she stressed.

Carrion noted that foreign marine biologists used to rank the Philippines first in the world in terms of the number and variety of species found in an ecosystem.

"Other countries arrest people doing this — that is why I am asking Congress to give PCSSD more teeth so we can claim our number one spot again," she said.

Carrion wrote to The STAR that the photograph featured last April 18 "will give readers the misconception that it is okay to do so. I hope that you will take the necessary steps to inform your readers and editors that this behavior underwater and photos depicting such… are unacceptable."

The photograph accompanied an article about the Philippines being recognized as the third best diving site in the world.

Incidentally, President Arroyo was "missing in action" yesterday and was said to have enjoyed some private time diving at the world-famous Tubattaha Reef in Palawan, one of her favorite sites.

Palace sources said Mrs. Arroyo indeed went diving but would not give any details.

"I cannot reveal (details) for security reasons," Presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor said. "She left early in the morning… She proceeded there (to an undisclosed place) with, I understand, three congressmen."

He refused to identify the congressmen.

The President did not have an announced activity schedule yesterday, making journalists covering Malacañang wonder where she was and what she was doing.

It was on April 27, 2002 when the President first went to Tubattaha Reef to dive.

"I’ve been there many times before. That’s why I learned how to dive. I’ve always been into diving," she previously told reporters.
DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM DIVING MALACA MICHAEL DEFENSOR MRS. ARROYO PHILIPPINE COMMISSION PRESIDENT ARROYO SPORT SCUBA DIVING TOURISM ASSISTANT SECRETARY CYNTHIA CARRION TUBATTAHA REEF
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