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26 May 2024, 01:35 AM

Customs Sues Corals And Marine Wildlife Traders

April 3, 2011

The Bureau of Customs has lowered the boom on the rapists of the ocean.

In a complaint filed today with the Department of Justice, Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez charged the owner, consignee, shippers and haulers of the P35 million worth of black corals and other endangered marine species which the BOC intercepted last month at the Eva Macapagal Domestic Terminal Container Yard of the Port of Manila.

Sued were Exequiel D. Navarro who was listed in the shipment’s manifest and bill of lading as the consignee of the illegally-harvested marine resources; Olivia Lim Li, proprietress of the Zamboanga-based Li and Lim Trading who was implicated by Navarro as the real shipper of the confiscated contraband; Kim L. Atillano, owner of the Zamboanga-based JKA Transport System which was the cargo forwarding company tapped by the shipper; Ireneo Penuliar and other yet –to-be identified employees of the Manila branch of the JKA Transport System; and, officers/owners of Vicky’s Trucking, the company which transported the misdeclared cargo from the shipper’s warehouse to the Port of Zamboanga.

The respondents were accused of violating Section 91 of the Republic Act 8550, otherwise known as the Fisheries Code of the Philippines relative to the ban on coral exploitation and exportation, Fisheries Administrative Order 158 promulgated in 1986 relative to prohibition on the gathering, taking, collecting, transporting, or possession for sale of endangered species of mollusks; and, Section 27 of the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.

An inventory conducted by specialists from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) revealed that the two seized containers were loaded with 163 stuffed hawkbills and green turtles; 21,169 pieces of black corals; 7,340 pieces of Trumpet and Helmet shells and 196 kgs. of sea whips, all threatened species that cannot be legally gathered, collected, traded nor transported.

Alvarez said the filing of the cases against the respondents had the support of the government’s frontline regulatory agencies in charge of protecting and conserving precious natural resources and biodiversity like the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Department of Environment’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau.

Records of the case would show that the attempted smuggling of the illegally harvested marine species was detected and foiled by the BOC’s Enforcement Group headed by Deputy Commissioner Horacio P. Suansing, Enforcement and Security Service (ESS) Director, Gen. Nestorio Gualberto and Port of Manila District Commander Major Ramon Policarpio.

Navarro, who had denied intentional participation in the illegal activity of the Li and Lim Trading described himself as a representative of the transport company that was hired to handle the illegal shipment which Li and Lim Trading had misdeclared as raw rubber.

According to Gualberto, Navarro had claimed in his counter-affidavit that JKA Transport System allowed Li and Lim Trading to load its cargo in the container vans without any supervision since the latter was a regular customer with no derogatory record.

Gualberto said that per Navarro’s account, he and the other employees of JKA Transport System were totally unaware of the shipment’s content, much less the involvement of Li and Lim Trading in illegal wildlife trade.

According to Suansing, JKA Transport’s deal with Li and Lim Trading included the facilitation of the contraband’ shipment to a foreign destination.

There are reports that Li and Lim’s core business was the export of marine products to Taiwan.

Suansing explained that Vicky’s Trucking was included in the charge sheet because the transport of wildlife is one of the illegal acts enumerated in Section 27 of the country’s Wildlife Act.

Alvarez said he would like to congratulate the agency’s Enforcement Group for its latest pro-environment accomplishment.

Their seizure of illegally-harvested marine dwellers brought to the fore the devastation being caused on the marine ecosystem by the illegal harvesters of endangered and threatened marine life and the greediness of those who finance their search-and-destroy operation.

Alvarez said he was hopeful that the chorus of angry voices condemning the silent killing of the reefs would help galvanize the nation’s political will to make the protection and conservation of the country’s natural resources a national priority.

Republic of the Philippines

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