Warehouse yields traces of corals, sea turtle carcasses PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 05 June 2011 17:49

The ocular inspection at a warehouse in Barangay San Roque, this city yesterday morning yielded traces of corals and sea turtle carcasses in what the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) believe as a breakthrough in the ongoing black coral smuggling investigation.

Mayor Celso Lobregat together with BFAR Director Azis Perez, Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Ernesto Adodo, Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim, BFAR Regional Director Sajili other marine life experts and the police went to inspect the Yuscom Warehouse at Pasay St., San Roque, this city around 9:30 a.m. yesterday.

Yuscom Warehouse is owned by businessman Benny Yu, who was on site when the authorities arrived. It has eight compartments, two of which (compartments Nos. 5 and 6) were leased to Olivia Lim Lee, owner of the black sea fan corals and other marine products seized in Manila ports last week.
Lee’s compartment (No.5) had already been sealed with a police line since Friday when the police and BFAR personnel were denied entry.

After a brief discussion with the authorities, Yu, owner of the warehouse, voluntarily requested one of his workers to open Lee’s compartment, explaining that he did not know what were stored inside and that he acted in good faith to cooperate with the government.

When opened, the compartment smelled rotted marine products packed in sacks that the authorities had to be extra careful so as not to tamper with anything laden inside.

Traces of corals were seen on the floor and surroundings of the compartment that Mayor Lobregat, Director Perez and Usec Adobo were all smiles as if telling they have found what they were looking for. The compartment was later padlocked and sealed with a police line.

The group then strolled towards the back of the warehouse and stumbled on yet another positive evidence of illegal trade—a sack containing shells or carcasses of sea turtles, the ground was littered with coral particles and packing cartons similar to those seized in Manila. The area was again sealed with a police line.
Shortly before noon time, however, a tip reached Mayor Lobregat that the compartment next to the one inspected earlier was also leased to Lee. The mayor wanted it opened as well.

This time, the warehouse owner (Yu) had already left the area, but in his stead Atty. Esguerra arrived as Yu’s counsel. It was reported that either Lee herself or her husband would come to the premises, only to find out after a long wait they sent a worker named Pacita Angeles with a key to compartment No. 6.

Angeles, who has been working with the Lees for four years now, told the authorities that she was told by her employers (the Lees) to bring the key and open the compartment for inspection.

Compartment No. 6 was then opened and inspected. It was observed that the area has been cleaned; the stocks were piled properly but were believed marine products. It was later padlocked and sealed with a police line.

From all indications, Lobregat believes there was enough evidence of coral smuggling in the area. He instructed the police to stand guard and secure the warehouse, particularly sealed areas, 24 hrs round the clock, pending inventory of the suspicious items and investigation by competent authorities.

“The case should be pursued and anyone involved should be arrested,” Lobregat said. “No kere yo hawshaw aki,” he warned, but he did not elaborate. — Vic Larato