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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fw: BoC uncovers smuggled P100 million worth of elephant tusks

Bureau of Customs Commissioner Napoleon L. Morales and Enforcement and Security Service Director Gen. Nestorio Gualberto today presented to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Jose L. Atienza, Jr. some P100 million worth of elephant tusks uncovered by the Customs Enforcement and Security Service (ESS). The tusks arrived at the Port of Manila (POM) in two separate shipments.


Sometime in April, ESS officials at the Port of Manila inspected a twenty footer container consigned to 210 Enterprises which arrived in the port since March first.  Declared as blow molding machines from Dar Es Salaam , Tanzania in Africa , the shipment was found to contain plastic scraps and sheeting in an initial spot check of the contents. However, another more thorough stripping of the container earlier this month unveiled that there were elephant tusks in the middle portion of the container.


"The ESS unveiled the tusks concealed in some bxes between the plastic scraps," explained C/Supt. Jose Yuchongco. Yuchongco further explained that the shipment is in violation of Section 2530 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP), as amended in relation to R.A. 9147 otherwise known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation Act and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.


Commissioner Morales immediately ordered for a thorough investigation of the shipment to find out who are the ultimate importers and to be on alert for any shipments that may be related or similar to this.


Under marching orders from the Commissioner, the ESS team intercepted another twenty-footer shipment which arrived at POM also from Dar Es Salaam , Tanzania and only four days (March 5) after the first apprehended shipment, ESS officials opened the container to check its contents. Declared as plastic scraps, customs officials were not shocked to find boxes of elephant tusks concealed in the innermost part of the container. Present during the inspection were DENR Assistant Secretary Jay Yambao and NCR Executive Director Jose Diaz. A request letter from a local importer of a President Container Lines, Inc. to the forwarding company, Ben Line Philippines, Inc., the cargo was to be relocated from the pier zone to a Balut Warehouse in Tondo when it was intercepted by Customs.


"I have ordered Director (Simplicio) Domingo of the Legal Service to immediately file the appropriate cases against those behind these smuggling tries and have ordered Gen. Gualberto for close monitoring of shipments from the same region to intercept any future shipments of elephant tusks," said Morales who lauded the swift actions of the ESS which led to the apprehension of the second shipment.


The seizures are considered a significant contribution of the Philippines to the international effort of eradicating illegal trade of wildlife and their byproducts, the country being a Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1981. Customs and DENR will conduct a joint inventory of the elephant tusks before these will be turned over to DENR custody.


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