Cabaero: National network in black coral web – Sun.Star

Source: Sun.Star June 6, 2011

For only P500 per container van, Exequiel Navarro affixed his name and signature on shipping documents that allowed the almost untraceable smuggling of protected aquatic resources.

The amount is not much but to Navarro, who admitted to not bothering to know the real contents of these container vans, the money is compensation for no real work. Navarro is turning to be but a small part of a network involved in the harvesting, processing and smuggling of these resources.

Navarro appeared Monday before senators investigating coral poaching in the country. He was listed as consignee of two container vans that were intercepted at the Manila pier last May.

The shipment was declared to contain raw rubber but Customs people found 163 stuffed hawk bills and green turtles, 21,169 pieces of black corals, 7,340 pieces of Trumpet and Helmet shells, and 196 kilograms of sea whips, all threatened species that cannot be legally gathered, collected, traded nor transported, according to a Sun.Star website report at www.sunstar.com.ph.

Navarro told senators he did not know the real contents of the containers vans. He said he was paid P500 per van to put his name and signature as consignee in the shipping documents. He identified the Zamboanga City-based JKA Transport as the one that included him in shipment records.

Once the vans reach Manila, he said the contents are usually transferred to other container vans. The Bureau of Customs has charged Navarro with violating the Fisheries Code and the Wildlife Protection Act.

Prior to this shipment, Customs officials in Cebu seized from a cargo ship a shipment of 168 sacks of black sea fan corals headed to the “Cebu Junkshop,” later found to be a fictitious name.

Aside from the Zamboanga and Manila connection, Cebu, too, may be part of the network of people or entities behind this questionable business.

After Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, chairman of the Senate committee on the environment, pushed for the investigation, Cebu shell traders expressed concern over a reckless generalization.

Cebu-based exporters of shells and shell craft said in a Sun.Star report Sunday the recommendation to ban the export of shells and shell craft products will result in the closure of export firms and the layoff of hundreds of workers. Zubiri had raised the ban as an offshoot of the investigation.

Joy Sharpe of the Shell and Shellcraft Industry of Cebu said the sector must not be dragged into the issue of the confiscation of black sea fan corals because it is making business out of shells whose contents are consumed by Filipinos. Caution should be taken to not affect legitimate operations.

This shows how the Senate investigation will have to cover a wide range of concerns from where the illegal harvest of corals is being done, the usually small-time fishermen behind it, the traders who purchase the harvest, the contacts located in metropolitan areas that are used as transshipment points en route to destinations abroad, and the final buyers of the shipment and of the product.

It can be a network of entities involved in the whole process of exploitation and exportation. Navarro is a mere speck in the black coral web.

(ninicab@sunstar.com.ph) Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 07, 2011.

Source: Sun.Star June 6, 2011