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Crocodile experts warned local residents in high-risk areas in Balabac town to stay away from riverbanks and swampy areas especially during night time when crocodiles are active.
The warning was made by the experts from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS), the DENR-Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC), and the NGO called Crocodylus Porosus Inc. (CPPI).
They visited five coastal communities in Balabac on October 28-30, to raise awareness of the local residents in an effort to address crocodile threats.
These barangays are Indalawan, Catagupan, Salang, Poblacion 5, and Ramos.
“Binigyang diin dito ng mga eksperto ang mga paraan at paalala upang maiwasan ang pag-atake ng buwaya, gaya ng paglayo sa tabing ilog o pampang lalong lalo na sa gabi kung saan aktibo ang mga buwaya,” the PCSDS said in a statement.
The PCSD further said that since 2000, some 32 incidents have been recorded related to crocodile attacks, 17 of which are in Balabac.
However, the local residents of Balabac, particularly the fisherfolk said that the lack of alternative sources of income compelled them to remain in these “high risk” swampy areas identified as habitat of crocodiles.
Aside from livelihood issues, the local residents identified the lack of infrastructure like bridges in the rivers and lack of water supply, are among their major problems and made them exposed to crocodiles.
Fisherfolks admitted that it is difficult for them to avoid crocodile attacks since they are highly dependent on coastal areas and they have no other means for living, except for fishing and fishery-related livelihood.
Fisherfolks in Brgy. Catagupan said that one young girl was killed by a crocodile in their place sometime in 2017 but they cannot immediately relocate somewhere since their source of income as the only means of living are through fishing.
These crocodile attacks also forced some local fishers to stop fishing due to fear.
“Wala nang nag-aalimango sa gabi dahil takot sa buwaya. Hindi na kami makalaot sa gabi kasi gabi-gabing dumadaan ang buwaya,” said one of the fishers in Salang, a coastal village.
“Yung iba ay may lupa naman po, pero walang kakayahan at puhunan sa basakan. Kailangan ng irrigation. Yung iba ang kaya lang ay seaweed farming,” he added.
Other cooperating agencies during the awareness raising activity and consultation were the municipal government of Balabac, the local police station and Palawan Maritime Police 2nd SOU.