I t has been nothing but an uphill battle since the all out media coverage on The Plunder of our Marine Life. Anna Oposa delivered a letter this morning at the Senate Hearing on the investigation of coral poaching. Anna submitted a list of recommendations for the amendment and enforcement of our environmental laws, as well as a copy of companies that are allegedly selling corals, sand, shells, and other marine species from the Philippines.
On June 1, Anna delivered her speech at the Senate hearing entitled, Saving the Philippines Seas: An Intergenerational Responsibility. Highlights of her speech included the useless replies of the DENR, BFAR when Anna communicated with them a month before and recommendations.
1. Before the Senate creates new laws, we fervently request you to review and revise our existing ones. We urge the Senate to add a provision regulating the collection and exportation of seashells. As of now, there are no laws that protect non-endangered shells.
2. The rape of our rich marine resources is not just of national concern, but INTERNATIONAL concern because of its global significance.
3. My generation and the generations yet unborn have a right to inherit a country that has sustained your generation. It must continue to do so.
Photo via Anna Oposa
Anna Oposa Letter of Recommendation
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri
Environment and Natural Resources
Senate of the Philippines
Hon. Ramon Paje Secretary Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Atty. Asis Perez
Director Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
Atty. Benjo Tabios
Assistant Director Bureau of Fisheries and Acquatic Resources
Ms. Teresita Mundita Lim
Director Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau
Dear Sirs and Madame:
The BFAR Regulatory and Quarantine Office, together with Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), DENR-PAWB, DENR-Mines and Geocities Bureau (MGB), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), and local government?s sanitation office and business permitting office, conduct inspections on shellcraft, handricraft, furnitures, sellers of stones/rocks business in Zamboanga City, Lapu- Lapu, Mandaue, Cebu City, Bacoor, Lipa City, Lucena City. It has been observed that:
a. Most of them employ children. These children have small hands, small fingers to handle shells. They are exposed to dosages of muriatic acid (used for shells to shine) and chlorine (used for coral bleaching). These are for the raw part. For the processing part, the young children are exposed to strong adhesives.
b. Most employ women, especially night operations.
c. Sub-contracts (normally out-sourced to neighbors) may not have
sanitation nor business permit and may not at all be paying correct taxes. Their commodities are often declared as something else.
d. Spurious or fake permits and licenses are used. At times, pebblepicking permits are used to collect corals. The corals are crushed, put in sacks, and passed on as rocks and pebbles. Outsourced warehouses may not even have permits at all.
Many of the aforementioned agencies, if not all agencies, have visitorial functions, as they are regulatory offices and, thus, may not need search warrants. They can be the revolving “lead agencies” depending on the objective of the inspection.
Furthermore, we would like to fervently request the amendment and revision of our environmental laws, with critical attention to the Fisheries Code (RA 8550) and the Wildlife Act (RA 9147). We would like to make the following recommendations:
a. The penalty for mere possession must not be in the same bracket as trading, exporting and transporting.
b. Clarify and further define what it means to “cause to catch” as found
in coral and shell prohibitions. We urge you to include “cause to be traded,” “cause to be transported,” and “cause to be exported” as punishable acts as well.
Thus, a person who placed the “order” will automatically be held liable.
c. More regulations on shell craft exporter businesses to include a separate clearance from the DENR-Protected Areas, Wildlife and Coastal
Zone Management Service prior to sealing, packing or freighting.
d. Not to monetize confiscated shells and corals as if they are timber. Shells and corals have different ecological functions and economic values.
e. Obligation on the part of the apprehended person to finance a marine
protected area amount equivalent to assessed value of the items seized. The assessment should not be based on market value, but potential value if they are alive (from tourism, fisheries etc. based on valuation formula of White and Trinidad, 1996).
f. Obligation on the part of apprehended person to finance the transport, storage and restoration/recolonization if corals.
g. Strict regulation of the collection and exportation of seashells. As of now, there are no laws that protect non-endangered shells.
We also ask the BFAR to update its list of “Rare, Threatened and Endangered Species.” The copy found online does not yet include species protected by local and international laws, such as whale sharks (protected by the Fisheries Administrative Order No. 193 and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and hawksbill turtles.
Moreover, under the RA 9147, Sec. 18, “[t]he collection of certain species shall only be allowed when the results of the assessment show that, despite certain extent of collection, the population of such species can still remain viable and capable of recovering its numbers.” This suggests that the BFAR is supposed to release a list of species that traders are allowed to collect (with proper permits, of course) in addition to the list of species that traders are not allowed to collect. This list is nowhere to be found online. We would like to request a copy of it to be posted online for the public?s perusal—if such already exists.
Maraming salamat at mabuhay po kayong lahat.
Ms. Anna R. Oposa
Project Officer Promotion of Environmental Law Enforcement and Compliance
The Law of Nature Foundation
Here are the list of companies that include Shell Horizons Inc. , Denis Brand , Top Sea Shells, Orcullo Enterprises
Chou Yong Shin Enterprises , Ningbo Honor Trade , The Shell Store 18, Aqua Marine Specimen Shells , Petra Aqua , Crystals, Rocks and Gems, Golden Specimen Shells , Shells @ GEM Science, De Donder Shells