TACLOBAN CITY – Approximately 50 kilograms of giant clams, locally known as “Taklobo”, and were believed to be giant pearls were seized in a buy-bust operation, while over 400 kilograms more were turned over by the locals to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Southern Leyte Provincial Field Unit (CIDG-SL PFU), together with Macrohon Police in Brgy. San Roque, Macrohon, Southern Leyte recently.
CIDG Southern Leyte Head PLt. Herbert Mendoza said they also arrested the suspect identified as Esmeraldo Panganuron, 57, married, farmer and a resident of said place.
He said the poseur buyer was able to hand off the Php 1,000 mark money with 10 Php 1,000 boodle money in exchange for the item that led to the suspect’s arrest and seizure of 1 “Taklobo” weighing about 2 kilograms and 5 more in his possession with approximate weight of 52.1 kilograms.
After that, his neighbors voluntarily surrendered 18 pieces of giant pearls weighing approximately 130 kilograms, turned over by Renante Macalos; and 359.7 kilograms more from Rowena Ochavo.
Taklobo is now in the list of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) and determined by Fisheries Administrative Order 208.
“Fishing or taking, gathering, selling, purchasing, possessing, transporting, exporting, forwarding or shipping out” of Taklobo is unlawful under Republic Act 10654, or the Philippine Fisheries Code.
Violators may be held administratively liable to “three times the value of the species, or Php 300,000 to Php 3 million or imprisonment of “five to eight years, and a fine equivalent to twice the administrative fine, and forfeiture of species.”
The punishment under the said law also does not distinguish between fresh or fossilized clams.
The authorities could not yet ascertain the exact worth of the items because of conflicting observations.
Plt. Mendoza added that prior to the operation, there were already attempts to buy the giant clams by strangers who went to said village for a high price, but was refused by the village chief who was asked to facilitate the transactions.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) 8 regional director Juan Albaladejo said they were invited, as well as representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for verification of the shell products, and also sent specimens to Manila for confirmation if they are indeed giant pearls or plain giant clams. “Just from the physical examination, it appears that the shellfish meat is similar to giant clam meat,” he observed. By Marie Tonette Marticio