Celso dares gov’t to arrest, prosecute coral smugglers PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 04 June 2011 17:26

To deter if not stamp out once and for all the illegal extraction of marine products, Mayor Celso Lobregat yesterday challenged the national government to pursue the case against any and all suspects in the recent black coral smuggling controversy.

“These coral smugglers should be arrested and prosecuted. We must have a sample that whoever gets involved in this smuggling will be arrested and prosecuted. Otherwise, efforts to prevent coral smuggling in the future will not succeed,” Mayor Lobregat said during a meeting yesterday with the different government agencies headed by Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) National Director Asis Perez and Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo.

Lobregat’s statement came after a BFAR lawyer told the body that the BFAR, Bureau of Customs and the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau were set to file yesterday morning the charges with the Department of Justice against the coral smuggling suspects.

Among those to be charged are Exequiel Navarro, consignee of the two vans containing the contrabands; Ereneo Penullar, manager of JKE Transport System Manila Branch; Tim Atilano, manager of JKE Transport System  Zamboanga City Branch, John and Jane Does of the JKE Transport System, officers of Vicky Trucking, and a certain Olivia Lim Lee, owner of a trading shop at Magay St, this city.

The BFAR initiated the meeting yesterday mainly to come up with a plan of action to prevent similar incidents in the future. It was suggested that the barangay officials and members of the barangay farmers’ councils be deputized by BFAR and DENR in the campaign against illegal extraction, transport and sale of marine products, especially the endangered ones like the black sea fan corals and sea turtles.

One of Lobregat’s main concerns, however, was the proliferation of illegally-constructed wharves, ports and piers on the city’s long shorelines. He said that these illegal ports can be used as entry points of contrabands from outlying provinces.

“I don’t think we have black corals in the seas of Region 9; meaning to say, these black corals came from somewhere else and brought to Zamboanga City,” he said. Unfortunately, he added, the coastline of Zamboanga City is very (from the west coast up to the east coast).

He said the city government has been complaining to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and other agencies against the proliferation of illegal wharves and private ports in the city that even if a battalion of soldiers and police will be assigned at the PPA, the contrabands will still not be shipped through the PPA.”

Investigation disclosed that black sea corals abound in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the probability was high that the confiscated contrabands must have come from any of these areas.

Director Perez and Usec. Adobo shared the views of Mayor Lobregat that the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), which supervises jurisdiction over all ports, wharves and piers, should look into these illegal structures; monitor their operations and demolish, if necessary.

It was also suggested that an information and education campaign on the ban on marine products be conducted among local folks who live by the sea and earn a living from marine resources. It was the contention of BFAR marine products are extracted by local folks who do not know that such act is illegal and punishable by law. “They just extract the corals and sell them to buyers without knowing it is illegal, thus an information campaign is necessary.”

Lobregat hinted that the most effective preventive measure is to stop extraction. “If we can prevent illegal extraction, then we prevent similar incident in the future,” he said. — Vic Larato