3 Foreigners Arrested for Illegal Possession of Endangered Tree Species

Three5-17 press release - 3 foreigners arrested for illegal possession of endangered tree species resized foreigners were arrested last week by the joint team of National Bureau of Investigations (NBI), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers in a hotel here in Davao City for illegal possession of endangered tree species. 
 
A Cambodian national and two other Malaysian nationals were caught by surprise when operatives from the NBI XI and officials from DENR XI and BI XI came to their hotel room last May 10, 2018. The three were arrested for violation of Section 77 of Presidential Decree 705 as amended by Executive Order No. 277, and Executive Order No. 23 or the Moratorium in the Cutting of Natural Grown Tree Species. 
 
In their possession are 13 kilos of agarwood wedges, locally known as Lapnisan, an endangered tree species, which the three admitted to have bought in Mati City last May 3, 2018 amounting to twenty thousand pesos. Cambodian Mot Tahear and Malaysians Muhamad Isa Bin Mohd Tahir and Ahmad Azim Bin Mat Rahim came to Davao to buy Agarwood. Tahear said that before they went to the Philippines, they met the dealer through Facebook and got acquainted with the latter for only 2 weeks. 
 
Tahear then made businesses with the dealer and came to Davao City with his son Muhamad and nephew Ahmad, who were assured that it will not cause them any problem especially with the Philippine authorities. He said that they have no idea that it is illegal in the Philippines to buy or possess Agarwood since they have not encountered any problems when they purchased it in neighboring Asian countries. 
 
Before the operation, officers from the DENR positively identified the samples obtained by the NBI as agarwood. Extracts from these trees are known to be used in perfumes and concoctions. It can relieve pains and can also prevent infection of open wounds. It is also used in the manufacture of bath soap and is known to treat cancer. 
 
First grade agarwood is one of the most expensive natural raw material in the world. In 2010, the price for superior pure material was as high as 100,000 US dollars per kilogram. However, under the Conservation on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Agarwood is listed in Appendix II which are species not necessarily threatened with extinction but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
 
The joint operation is part of the on-going anti-illegal logging campaign of DENR through the Task Force Against Environmental Crimes with support coming from the NBI, PNP, AFP, DILG and other law enforcement agencies.

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Aboitiz to establish Pawikan Center in Davao City

Aboitiz Group of Companies will soon establish a pawikan rescue center and hatchery for marine turtles at the Aboitiz Cleanergy Park in Punta Dumalag, Matina Aplaya, Davao City.

Through a Memorandum of Agreement signed by the Aboitiz Group’s social development arm Aboitiz Foundation and AboitizPower business unit Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-XI) and the City Government of Davao, the establishment of the Pawikan Center aims to provide temporary shelter to marine sea turtles where they can be rehabilitated, conserved and protected.

Signatories to the MOA are: Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio; Aboitiz’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jaine Jose Aboitiz; and DENR’s OIC, Assistant Secretary for Eastern Mindanao in concurrent capacity as Regional Executive Director Ruth M. Tawantawan.

“Aside from the many nests and eggs that have been discovered and protected, the Park has also served as a venue to inform and educate more visitors about the importance of safeguarding the pawikan and its natural habitat,” Aboitiz said.

With the signing of the MOA, Mayor Duterte said that the city government reiterates its commitment to the protection of the various species of Pawikan found in Davao City.

“And so we commend the Aboitiz Foundation Incorporated and the Davao Light and Power Company for your pawikan conservation efforts at the Cleanergy Park that has released 3,482 turtle hatchlings to date since the start of the operation. We also thank the DENR for the technical expertise and guidance you provided to ensure that the conservation efforts being undertaken are appropriate and will lead to the best possible results,” Duterte-Carpio said.

Moreover, Tawantawan stressed that the 8-hectare Punta Dumalag is a very special area as it is home to pawikan and also to 89 bird species and 7 kinds of mangrove vegetation.

“This very area is so rich and unique that it became also a habitat of other important flora and fauna. That is why DENR is very blessed to be working with the Aboitiz, with Mayor Sara and other officials who sincerely care for the environment. Surely, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu will be very pleased and grateful,” she added.

Tawantawan also said that pawikan particularly Hawksbill are critically endangered. “If we check on the reproductive cycle of turtles, their survival is very nil. Only 1 percent. And it takes so long for them to mature. That’s 20 to 50 years. That means, if they are not protected, the probability of extinction is very high,” she said.

Apart from protecting the nesting areas at the park, the Pawikan Center aims to identify, document, and address threats to marine turtles and their habitats in Punta Dumalag; promote research, monitoring and information exchange; enhance public awareness on the conservation initiatives in the area; and fortify the collaboration between the public and private sectors for the long-term recovery of pawikan population in the area.

The DENR will provide technical assistance, facilitate information and education campaign on marine turtle conservation, and establish Punta Dumalag as critical habitat for marine turtles, among others.

Meanwhile, the Davao LGU, through local ordinance, will strengthen the enforcement of existing laws relevant to the conservation efforts, assist the DENR in the establishment of Punta Dumalag as critical habitat for the marine turtles, provide manpower support for the project, and furnish DENR with monitoring reports. #TayoAngKalikasan

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