More sacks of black corals seized in Cebu
MANILA, Philippines—Weeks after the Bureau of Customs foiled a plot to smuggle out of the country over P35 million worth of dead sea turtles and other endangered marine life, another illicit shipment containing sacks of rare black sea corals was intercepted in Cebu.
Customs officials suspected that the P15 million worth of black sea corals shipped from Manila and seized in Cebu on May 19 were somehow linked to their earlier catch of dead rare sea turtles, black corals and sea shells shipped from Cotabato.
In a report to Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez, Nestorio Gualberto, director of Custom’s Enforcement Security Service said his team was still finding out if the newly seized rare marine species were connected with the previous contraband from Cotabato.
The bureau touted it as its first biggest catch involving endangered marine species.
Marine experts have estimated that about 7,000 hectares of “reef complex” were destroyed when poachers harvested 161 sea turtles and over 21,000 sea shells and black corals off the waters of Cotabato.
The Customs police discovered the most recent illegal shipment of black corals on board MV Lorcon Manila vessel owned by the Lorenzo Shipping Corp. following a tip that it was being transported as “scrap metal,” said Gualberto.
A check on the shipment in coordination with Dang Go, inbound sales coordinator of the shipping firm, upon arrival in Cebu last week showed that the cargo contained an assortment of sea corals, he related.
At least 168 sacks or 375 pieces of the endangered marine species, identified by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources as “black sea fan” coral were accounted for, he said.
The shipment was consigned to Cebu Junk Shop, which turned out to be fictitious following an investigation on the incident, he added.
The law prohibits any person or corporation to gather, possess, sell or export ordinary, precious and semiprecious corals whether in raw or in processed form. The penalties range from six months to two years in prison and a fine of as much as P500,000.
Black coral is among the species protected by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
According to Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez, the illegal trade in black corals “is being fueled by the demand of the multibillion dollar marine ornamental industry for exotic decorative species and the increasing popularity of coral-accented jewelry and fashion accessories.”
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