The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the National Bureau of Investigation recently stopped the illegal sale of assorted corals and other prohibited species in Cartimar, Pasay City.
A total of 3,788 pieces of both hard and soft corals, coral stones, and pebbles were seized by the NBI- Environmental Crime Division and BFAR’s law enforcement group.
Five stalls were caught selling corals during a buy-bust operation, while two other stores were apprehended through “plain view doctrine.”
The law enforcers found corals and juvenile clam species on the stores’ shelves. Based on their initial investigation, the corals were gathered from Lubang Island off the coast of Mindoro.
Republic Act 10654 or the amended Philippine Fisheries Code prohibits gathering, possessing, commercially transporting, selling or exporting ordinary, semi-precious and precious corals, whether raw or in processed form by any person or corporation.
The confiscated items were brought to the evidence impounding area of the BFAR for preservation. Experts from the National Fisheries Research Development Institute, the agency’s research arm, are currently identifying the species of the corals.
Apart from the corals, 14 seahorses, 34 giant clam species, and two helmet shells were also seized by the authorities. The NBI has already filed a case against the violators.
Corals are hard, variously colored, calcareous skeleton secreted by tiny, soft-bodied marine organisms related to sea anemones and jellyfish. At their base is a hard, protective limestone skeleton, which forms the structure of coral reef. Reefs begin when the marine organism attaches itself to a rock on the sea floor, then divides, or buds into thousands of clones.
Upon a summary finding of administrative liability, the offender shall be punished with an administrative fine equivalent to eight times the value of the corals, estimated at P500,000 to P10 million, and forfeiture of the corals.
Upon conviction by a court of law, the offender shall be punished by imprisonment from 10 years to 20 years and a fine equivalent to twice the administrative fine and forfeiture of the subject corals.