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PIA Press Release

Silago environment NGO mull taking over rare sperm whale bones

By Bong Pedalino

Silago, Southern Leyte (December 5) -- A locally organized non-government organization (NGO) that trains its sights on protecting and preserving marine resources through a sustained education campaign for all sectors of the community, also eyes to clip under its wings the remaining bones of a dead sperm whale beached in this town's shores nine years ago.

The reason for this desire is still related to the group's concern, particularly on the proper care and maintenance of the bones, now displayed in a specially-made housing located at the town's plaza, near the health center, measuring approximately twenty meters from the tip of its front skull up to the tail.

But there is something more: Ocean Resource Center (ORC), the home-grown NGO based in barangay Balagawan, this town, claimed that it is within its shores that the dead sea mammal, described as the size of a Philtranco bus, sought refuge.

However, possession of the assembled bones -- said to be the only complete set in the Philippines, and one among only four throughout the world -- was not necessarily the purpose of the NGO's coming into being.

ORC was conceptualized early part of last year, 2008, when Grace Kiton had attended one of the seminars regularly initiated by Coral Cay, a British Conservation NGO based in barangay Napantaw, San Francisco, said Lorina Toyhacao, the group's leader, during an interaction with local media Thursday, December 3.

She was somehow touched and felt challenged that foreigners were more knowledgeable on the local marine resources, while the locals themselves were unaware of the rich treasures in our own coastal seas, and cannot even care less on its protection and preservation.

Toyhacao narrated that the experience really had a deep impact on Grace that she lost no time forming the NGO now called ORC, made tie-ups with other established groups such as Coral Cay and others in the Visayas and Mindanao, and donated a two-hectare lot her own lot -- in barangay Balagawan which will soon be the main headquarters of ORC.

In May last year ORC started the ball rolling by having workshop with the kids, then later on with teachers. Before long, the local government unit (LGU), aware of the NGO's rising potential to reach heights, rendered financial assistance, said Mayor Manuel Labrador in an interview at his office.

Last October 27, 2009, there was a launching of the ORC site attended by Cong. Roger Mercado and noted Environment Lawyer Antonio Oposa.

Toyhacao said Cong. Mercado pledged to commit P 1 Million from his congressional funds for the construction of an edifice next year within the two-hectare lot, which will include a glass casing or a museum for the sperm whale bones.

With the construction of an enclosed structure already assured as a matter of time, their longing to be the custodian of the whale's bones began to fill their senses.

So far, ORC has not yet expressly put forward this proposition to the LGU, but when the time comes, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) shall be duly signed for this purpose, an ORC volunteer intimated.

Until then, the sperm whale -- so-called because its head reportedly looked like the "head" of a sperm, or like a tadpole -- shall have come full circle, back to where it has landed. (PIA-Southern Leyte) [top]

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