The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) has completed its inventory of the bales of wildlife by-products that were seized in Barangay San Pedro and their roughly calculated value is over P40 million in the Philippine black-market.
Jovic Fabello, spokesperson of the PCSD, said the estimated value of the 1,298.17 kilos of seized dried pangolin scales, seahorses, and pipefishes is P40,250,976.
For the 263 kilos of Hawksbill turtle scutes, Fabello said they do not have any estimate yet since finished products, like turtle shell combs and jewelry pieces, are more valuable.
“‘Yong turtle scutes ang hirap niyang e-estimate kasi nagkakaroon lang siya ng value kapag na-convert na siya into jewelry o kaya decorations — mas mahal. ‘Yong raw material, hindi pa namin makita ‘yong value,” Fabello said.
He said he is familiar with how much an adult-sized Hawksbill turtle costs in the black-market, but he declined to disclose it to prevent enticing unscrupulous individuals from engaging in its trafficking.
Fabello said they have already solicited the help of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to help them.
“Hindi pa nava-valuate ng tama ‘yong mga scales, scutes, seahorses, pati pipefishes — meron lang kaming mga source na halimbawa noon sa local, ito ‘yong price range niya. ‘Yon lang ‘yong mga basis namin, pero malalaman namin ito kasi ‘yong BMB meron silang value estimates for particular by-product ng wildlife. Humingi na rin kami ng support nila, but for now puro estimates muna kami, ” Fabello said.
Based on their inventory, the dried pangolin scales weighed 1,154.31 kilos (2,544.81 lbs); Hawksbill turtle scutes 263 kilos (579.81 lbs); seahorses 104.54 kilos (230.47 lbs), and pipefishes 39.32 kilos (86.68 lbs).
Fabello said in the black-market outside the Philippines, such as China and Hong Kong, the value in dollars of the wildlife products that are important in traditional Chinese medicine could even be higher.
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“Ang market ng turtle scutes hindi lang Hong Kong, umaabot ito ng North America. Itong bekko sa Japan, kapag wedding ceremony pala kailangan may suklay na made of pawikan shell na parating nasa bride so part ng custom nila,” he said.
He said they have sent samples of pangolin scales to the University of the Philippines (UP) so it can help determine if they are from Palawan.
Fabello said once this and their estimates have been verified and confirmed with the help of UP and the BMB, they will file the case.
He said the killing, hunting, processing, and trading of protected wildlife species is a violation of the Republic Act 9147 of 2001, otherwise known as the “Conservation and Protection of Wildlife Resources”.
The wildlife products were seized on September 27 by joint operatives and personnel of the Western Command’s (WESCOM) Naval Forces West (NFW), Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), and PCSD.