Syndicates behind illegal harvest of giant clams posing as researchers- Cimatu

Published May 15, 2021, 4:04 PM

by Betheena Unite

Beware of individuals posing as researchers only to harvest giant clams for illicit trade.

CLAMMY HANDS? — A Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) diver carefully re-seeds a giant clam on March 11, 2021. (FILE PHOTO)

This was the warning of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu to the public after more than 300 pieces of giant clam shells in Johnson Island and 150 tons of giant clams in Green Island both in Roxas, Palawan were seized in March and April, respectively.

According to the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) Executive Director Teodoro Jose Matta, a certain Dr. Rosalee Tequillo, who identified herself as the national facilitator of the National Redemption Program for Fossilized Giant Clams, admitted that she is buying the giant clams for scientific research.

“There was an admission on the part of Dr. Tequillo that they were engaged in the collection and possession of giant clamshells or ‘taklobo’ (Tridacna gigas) but she was not able to prove that it was for scientific purposes. Her mention of the ‘buyer’ has inclined us to believe that it was not truly for scientific or breeding or propagation purpose,” Matta explained.

He added that Tequillo failed to provide valid documentary evidence to prove that their activities are legal, bolstering suspicion that the wildlife resources are actually up for illicit trade.

“She was also not able to present any document from the Office of the President (OP) about the National Redemption Program. The only evidence she presented is a document purportedly from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) National Director Commodore Eduardo Gongona which they use to justify their collection and possession of giant clam species,” Matta said.

“But upon examination of said document, the PCSDS (Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff) found that it did not and does not, in any way give, Dr. Tequillo and her group or any private individual any authority to collect, extract or possess fossilized giant clam species,” he added.

The PCSDS warned the group that “the conduct of such undertaking under the guise of possessing legal authority from the OP and the BFAR and misinforming the public, carry the imposition of corresponding sanctions under the law.”

This compelled the agency to build a case against the erring individuals behind the illegal trade of giant clams in Johnson Island and Green Island in Roxas, Palawan for violation of Republic Act (RA) 9147 or Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.

“Our vast wildlife resources, especially in Palawan, considered as the country’s ‘last ecological frontier,’ should be protected with utmost responsibility from frauds. This is the reason behind the DENR’s stringent laws and policies on wildlife and its scrutiny of individuals who want to gain access or control over these species,” Cimatu said.