A group of giant clamshells or ‘taklobo’ (Tridacna gigas) collectors are facing criminal charges for their alleged involvement in the illegal trade of giant clams in Johnson Island and Green Island in Roxas, Palawan.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu said that charges for violation of Republic Act (RA) 9147, or Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001, is being readied against the group of Dr. Rosalee Tequillo, who identified herself as the national facilitator of the National Redemption Program for Fossilized Giant Clams.
Cimatu disclosed that the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) together with other concerned government agencies seized more than 300 pieces of giant clam shells in Johnson Island and 150 tons of giant clams in Green Island both in Roxas, Palawan in March and April, respectively, from Tequillo’s group.
PCSD Executive Director Teodoro Jose Matta met with Tequillo, who claimed to be a “buyer” of the giant clams for scientific purposes.
“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 said that Tequillo failed to provide valid documentary evidence to prove that their activities are legal.
“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.
Meanwhile, Cimatu urged the public to exercise extra precautions when dealing with individuals who pose as scientific researchers only to harvest giant clams for illicit trade.
“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.
The PCSDS, an attached agency of DENR, likewise 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.”
Matta said the PCSD will “remain firm in its commitment to clamp down on illegal wildlife trade in Palawan and ensure a sustainable environment for Palaweños.”