2,000 kg of manta ray meat seized from Bohol couple
TAGBILARAN CITY—A couple here bought 2 tons of manta ray meat for only P40,000, which they intended to dry and sell for at least P300 a kilogram.
But instead of enjoying a projected P600,000 bonanza, Gomer Valeroso, 49, and his wife, Milagrosa, 47, found themselves in jail after Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel seized the slabs of manta ray meat on the couple’s motorized banca at the port of Baclayon town, Bohol province, on Thursday afternoon.
The Valerosos are facing charges for violating the Philippine Fisheries Code (Republic Act No. 8550) that prohibits the hunting, killing or selling of rare, threatened or endangered species identified in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Violators are fined P120,000 or sentenced to a prison term of 12 to 20 years.
Erick Salcedo, PCG deputy commander in Tagbilaran City, said their personnel patrolling Panglao and Pamilacan islands accosted the couple’s boat, named MBCA The Original Double D, at the pier. The PCG later found more slabs of manta ray meat, locally called “sanga,” inside a jeepney there.
It turned out that the couple transported the manta ray meat from Jagna town to Baclayon on board the jeepney and loaded these on the banca so they could take these home to Pamilacan Island.
Salcedo said they contacted the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to check if the meat belonged to endangered species of manta rays.
Pedro Milana Jr., officer in charge of BFAR Bohol, confirmed that the meat were from the species Manta alfredi (reef manta ray) and Manta birostris (giant manta ray), which were protected under Fisheries Administrative Order No. 193 and RA 9147 (Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act).
The couple, however, claimed they did not know that they bought endangered species.
“We didn’t know that what we were doing was illegal. We bought the manta ray meat because this is our livelihood,” said Valeroso.
Valeroso, who sells dried fish, said they intended to dry the meat and sell it for P300 to P400 a kg.
The BFAR buried the manta ray slabs and carcasses in Calape town.
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