11 nabbed as truck flagged for seatbelt rule violation yields 8,000 kg of giant clams
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Police arrested 11 persons and seized their cargo of nearly 1 ton of giant clams, known locally as taklobo, early on Tuesday, Dec. 3, according to an official of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
The suspects were aboard a truck loaded with 8,000 kilograms of giant clams, which violated Republic Act No. 10564. The law prohibits the gathering, selling or transport of the clams.
Teodoro Bacolod Jr., assistant BFAR regional director, said the clams are listed as an endangered species by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) and by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Bacolod said the cargo was estimated to fetch P48 million in the market, based on the reported buying price of P350,000 per kg by the suspects’ foreign client.
He said foreign clients are seeking out the clams for pearl components found in their fossilized shells.
Lt. Col. Alexy Sonido, head of the City Mobile Force Company (CMFC) of the local police, said policemen manning a CMFC checkpoint at Lumbia, a district in Cagayan de Oro, flagged the truck for a traffic rule violation.
But when the truck’s cargo hold was opened, the lawmen found the clams, prompting them to arrest the suspects who failed to present documents authorizing the transport of the endangered marine creatures.
“The driver was not wearing a seat belt,” said Sonido. A citation ticket was issued and when policemen searched the truck, they found people guarding sacks containing the giant clams.
Sonido said the truck came from the village of Bayanga and headed to the town of Initao, Misamis Oriental province where the suspects were presumed to be meeting their buyer
Bacolod said the BFAR national office had advised the regional officials to file administrative and criminal charges against the suspects. Police would be the one to file the criminal cases, said Bacolod.
BFAR had recommended a fine of P5 million on all the 11 suspects, he said.
“We want to teach them a lesson,” Bacolod said. “They cannot just take our fisheries’ law for granted,” he added.
“They have to pay the price,” the BFAR official said.
The stiff fines were meant to discourage the poaching of endangered animals and plants, said Bacolod.
Sonido said the truck was registered in the name of a Precily Ceniza of Tagoloan town, Misamis Oriental.
Those arrested came mainly from Cagayan de Oro City and the provinces of Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon. They were identified as Christopher Pornia, 28, the truck driver; Ricky Sunogan, 50; Larry Salvan, 45; Diosdado Abellana, 29; Arnel Sanchez, 49; Peterson Suan, 55; Ricky Allones, 35; Jed Ragmac, 29; Ramil Villagracia, 19; Ronel Pilarca, 30; and Michael Paler, 24.
Sonido said the case against the suspects had already been filed in court last Tuesday.
Edited by TSB
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