Seized corals point to Punta Engaño officials

Posted on March 10, 2011


Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia said a charge of dereliction of duty would be filed against Punta Engaño barangay officials for failing to detect illegally harvested corals found in their area.

Garcia said the confiscated corals, which weighed more than a ton, included “endangered” species.

“The NBI will be filing the charges. You must understand that they will (have to) file charges against the barangay officials for dereliction of duty,” Garcia said.

Last Tuesday, Central Visayas operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) seized a truckload of corals that was abandoned in barangay Punta Engaño in Lapu-Lapu City.

The corals were brought to the Cebu Provincial Capitol and are now kept in the parking lot.

Joefrey Merencillo, agricultural chief III of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro), said the confiscated corals weighed more than 1.4 tons.

BFAR said that at least three species from the batch were among those identified as “endangered.”

These are blue corals, helmet shells locally known as budyong, and the triton or trumpet shells also known as tambuli.

Merencillo said these types of corals are used for decor.

Blue corals, he said, also produce a syrup that is used as an ingredient in making “bubble tea,” a drink that is popular in South East Asian countries.

Marine biologist Mario Marababol said the corals could have been harvested from coastal waters of Mindanao and brought to Cebu for disposal.

He said Cebu and Manila are the most common destination of corals taken from the waters of Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga and Sulu.

Marababol of Ocean Care said that a Cebuano buyer could have left the truckload of corals in barangay Punta Engaño after he heard of the NBI operation.

He said the harvest of corals is prohibited because “all corals are considered critically endangered.”

“The number of surviving corals is decreasing because of their lack of protection,” he said.

Marababol said coral reefs, which are breeding grounds of fish, should be be protected because they are “the basic life support of the ecosystem” of the sea.



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