#OustTheTurtle and sea turtles: Environmental org turns political hashtag into ‘save pawikan’ campaign

July 16, 2020 - 4:45 PM
Turtle and teenagers
Left photo shows a sea turtle and the right photo shows teenagers scrolling their smartphones. (Photos from Pixabay/bphelan and Creative Commons, respectively)

The Twitter hashtag #OustTheTurtle made its way to the account of Oceana Philippines which used it as an opportunity to raise awareness on saving sea turtles from threats like illegal fishing and plastic pollution.

The organization on Wednesday night shared a GIF of what appeared to be a dancing sea turtle and tweeted: “We’re relieved to find out that #OustTheTurtle is not for sea turtles, which already face many threats like illegal fishing and plastic pollution.” 

It added in the replies thread that the real sea turtles would be “so thankful” for the public’s support and then called for them to sign an online petition to stop land reclamation projects in Manila Bay.

“Manila Bay extends to provinces like Bataan and Cavite and sea turtles can be found in these areas,” Oceana said.

Sea turtles, also known locally as “pawikans” is an endangered marine animal.

Four out of five marine turtle species in the country were reported to be endangered and one of species, the hawksbill, is critically endangered. Collecting and trading them is against the law.

Oceana’s original tweet has since gone viral with 1,100 retweets and 3,100 likes on the microblogging platform.

The petition, meanwhile, was created by the UP Marine Biological  Society which calls on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to “comply with the mandates set by the law” in terms of the reclamation.

“Reclamation projects pose grave threats to our natural life support systems as these destroy our mangroves, seagrass beds, wetlands and other marine habitats which are sources of life to humans and non-humans alike,” part of it reads.

“Dumping and filling of critical marine support systems in Manila Bay are not only violating our environmental laws—these deprive our artisanal fisherfolk of their livelihood and sustenance. We enjoin you to strengthen our efforts to defend and protect our country’s natural resources,” it added.

Last April, Malacañang said that President Rodrigo Duterte is not “inclined” to give a permit to entities who wanted to conduct reclamation activities in the bay.

DENR in June reportedly gave clearance to a reclamation project “of around 320 hectares worth of outer and inner islands along the coast of Manila Bay in the waters of Bacoor City.”

What’s with the #OustTheTurtle? 

The #OustTheTurtle hashtag, although categorized by Twitter under “animals,” is a substitute to the “#OustDuterte” hashtag often used by the critics of the president.

The “#OustDuterte” hashtag previously gained global traction after the chief executive remarked in April that state forces “shoot” quarantine violators.

RELATED: Duterte’s ‘kill’ order during COVID-19 crisis fuels worldwide ‘oust’ trend

He said that the remark was meant for “leftists” who allegedly sabotaged the distribution of foods through street protests in Quezon City. Reports note that the individuals were from Barangay Pag-asa who reportedly demanded food and financial aid amid the enhanced community quarantine.

Some Filipinos slammed Duterte’s violent threats and urged him to focus on addressing the public health crisis at hand.

Other variations of the “#OustDuterte” hashtag have since emerged but one that recently gained traction was the “#OustTheTurtle” which landed on the local top trending list the night after “#OustKiko” trended.

RELATED: #OustKiko? Senators deny moves to unseat Pangilinan as Senate panel chair

“#OustKiko” came into consciousness on Tuesday night when some Twitter accounts said Sen. Kiko Pangilinan should leave his post as the chair of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revisions Code.

Senate President Tito Sotto III dismissed the allegations while Pangilinan said that he would vacate his post “if asked by the Senate leadership,” not by the clamor of “paid online trolls.”

Following the incident, some Twitter users called on the public to let other hashtags trend to counter the “#OustKiko” calls.

These include former senatorial candidate Samira Gutoc who quipped that people should tweet “#OustTheTurtle” instead.

She later on replied to Oceana’s post about sea turtles after they used the hashtag.

“Protect the real turtles,” Gutoc tweeted with a heart emoji.

Other hashtags that trended in counter of the “#OustKiko” were “#OustKoko” which called for Sen. Koko Pimentel‘s resignation following his violation of quarantine protocols amid a public health crisis.