Saturday, September 21, 2013
Once enacted into law, Section 91 on the Ban on Coral Exploitation and Exportation of the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 will be amended to read as follows: “It shall be unlawful for any person or corporation to gather, possess, sell or export ordinary precious and semi-precious corals, whether raw or in processed form, except for scientific or research purposes.”
From a punishment of six months to two years and a fine from P2,000 to P20,000, violators shall be fined a fee of P100,000 to P500,000 and imprisonment, at the discretion of the court, and forfeiture of the subject corals, including the vessels and its proper disposition, should the bill be enacted into law.
The confiscated corals shall either be returned to the sea or donated to schools and museums for educational or scientific purposes, or disposed through other means.
Villar said that more than the monetary or economic equivalent of the destroyed marine life, it is the environmental repercussions that are really alarming.
“It takes a whole month for corals to grow barely one centimeter. So it takes a whole generation for these massive coral reef systems to be built. We need to protect our marine biodiversity, which is one of the most admired all over the country,”
On January 17, 2013, the USS Guardian ran aground the Tubbataha Reef damaging at least 2,345 square meters of corals. A few months after that, vessels carrying allegedly Chinese poachers also ran into the reef, causing greater damage.
“Despite our vigilance and efforts to protect our marine ecosystem, there are still poachers and traders who continue to exploit our seas and oceans. Stricter policies and graver punishments for violations would help curb these illegal practices,” Villar said. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)