Around P50-million worth of endangered giant clam (Tridacna gigas) shells were confiscated during a joint operation Tuesday conducted by environment and law enforcement agents Tuesday at Green Island, Roxas town.
Two residents of Green Island, Barangay Tumarbong were apprehended by the 2nd Special Operations Unit-Maritime Group (SOU-MG), Naval Intelligence and Security Group West, Naval Forces West, PCSD, and members of Bantay Roxas after finding the clamshells inside their home and underneath sand nearby.
“Sa bahay ng mga suspect ‘yong ibang mga clam shells, then nahukay na lang ‘yong iba pang nakabaon malapit sa bahay,” said Maritime Police spokesperson P/Lt. Anna Abenojar.
The suspects, Cristine Parcellano, 30, and her nephew, Roque Lawan, 28, have been placed under the PCSD’s custody. The 76 confiscated shells, weighing nearly 25 tons, were placed under the custody of Barangay Tumarbong.
Parcellano and Lawan will be facing criminal charges for violating Section 27 of Republic Act No. 9147, also known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act. The section prohibits collecting, hunting, and possessing of wildlife and their by-products and derivatives.
According to the PCSDS spokesperson Jovic Fabello, the council has already filed a case against the suspects, and inquest proceedings have begun.
“Kagabi [January 12, Tuesday], ‘yong dalawang suspek ay na-inquest na, sinampahan natin ng kasong paglabag sa Sec. 27 ng Wildlife Act, ‘yon ‘yong collection, possession ng mga endangered species ng wildlife,” said Fabello in an interview Wednesday.
“Nagdala lang kami ng ilang taklobo, then ang iba nasa pangangalaga ng barangay lang, pero lahat ‘yon naka inventory. Hindi namin mahakot lahat dahil mabigat, 25 tons ‘yon. Kumuha lang kami ng mga siyam na piraso, dinala dito sa Puerto para magamit na ebidensiya,” he added.
Fabello explained that it is possible that the suspects were waiting for another poacher to pick up the buried clams from the beach to transfer to a bigger boat, which is where they will be paid for their services.
“Sa mga information natin, may iba’t ibang klase ng bilihan. Pero wala pa kaming nakikita o nabalitaan na nakuha na sa kanila ng pinaka-buyer. Kasi ang modus, mag-iipon sila, ibabaon nila sa buhangin, saka sila dadaanan ng bangka. ‘Yong bangka na ang mangongolekta at magdadala sa laot, at doon ililipat sa barko at saka na doon magkakabayaran,” he said.
Fabello said they suspect that the demand for giant clam shells has increased because it is regarded as a substitute for elephant tusk ivory, which is now rare on the market due to international regulations and stricter hunting laws in Africa.
“Ang pagkakaalam natin diyan, ‘di ba nawala na ang ivory trade? Ang ivory trade, medyo nawawala na dahil mahigpit na sa international market. Ito ang ginawa nilang substitute. Ginagawa nilang palamuti ito. ‘Yong malalaking clamshell, hinuhulma saka inuukit, ginagawang pang-display sa mga bahay, hotel,” said Fabello.