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Government urges boycott of illegal traders of black corals

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Malacanang has urged the local and international buying public to boycott traders involved in the illegal business of black corals in an effort to protect biodiversity not only in the country but also in other parts of the world.

In an official statement issued on Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda underscored the need for a greater inspection of the black coral trade so that Philippine authorities can work with their counterparts in other places in putting a halt on the destructive business.

“We need greater scrutiny of the trade in black corals as it is in all our interest to stamp out this destructive trade”, the statement read.

“We call on all consumers the world over to make a similar commitment to saving the biodiversity of our seas, by refusing to buy black coral items,” it added.

The statement further stated that there are instances where black coral from the Philippines is exported to other countries and passed off as sourced in those countries. For this reason, the government is asking for the cooperation of Filipinos abroad to look into black corals that may have been smuggled from the Philippines.

“We must bear in mind that even as our authorities such as the Bureaus of Customs, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and departments like the Department of Environments and Natural Resources (DENR) work?to interdict the poachers and their contraband, establishing protected areas?and making them successful is,ultimately, what will stem the tide of?environmental destruction,” the statement added.

It also said that for every major success story like the protection of Tubbataha Reef and the cooperation between foreign governments and the Philippines, national and local authorities, and government and NGOs it represents, there remain the threats represented by poachers: as proven by the confiscation of poached goods.

The statement also said that news such as the report of the confiscation of illegally harvested black?coral from the Sulu Sea helps the authorities identify?areas that can be patrolled. It also alerts NGOs committed to?saving the environment, and individuals such as divers who have a vested?interest in protecting marine biodiversity, to step up their advocacies?to help the common cause: making a difference in safeguarding the coral?reefs.??Such manner paves the way for success stories to turn into environmental victories.

The government called on the Local Government Units (LGUs) to refer to, and implement, the guidebook on Coral Reef Protection issued by the DENR last year. Local governments, it added, can learn from the best practices of their fellow LGUs.

As an example, Lacierda cited the partnership between the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute and the municipality of Bolinao, in the province of Pangasinan where training workshops and coral transplantation have been undertaken in the coastal barangays of Lucero, Balingasay, Binabalian and Victory, to name a few.

In Occidental Mindoro, the municipalities of Looc and Lubang last year passed ordinances establishing marine management areas around the Lubang islands in the Verde Island Passage; and the Kilusan Sagip Kalikasan in Palawan and its efforts against cyanide fishers.

Very recently, the Bureau of Customs foiled a plot to smuggle out of the country sacks of rare black sea corals that were intercepted in Cebu.

Customs officials suspected that the P15 million worth of black sea corals shipped from Manila and seized in Cebu on May 19 were somehow linked to their earlier catch of dead rare sea turtles, black corals and sea shells shipped from Cotabato.

The bureau touted it as its first biggest catch involving endangered marine species.

Marine experts have estimated that about 7,000 hectares of “reef complex” were destroyed when poachers harvested 161 sea turtles and over 21,000 sea shells and black corals off the waters of Cotabato. (PCOO/PIA9-BST)




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