Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu urged the public to exercise extra precautions when dealing with individuals who pose as scientific researchers only to harvest giant clams for illicit trade.

Cimatu issued the statement after the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) together with other concerned government agencies, seized more than 300 pieces of giant clam shells in Johnson Island and 150 tons of giant clams in Green Island both in Roxas, Palawan in March and April, respectively.

"Our vast wildlife resources, especially in Palawan, considered as the country’s 'last ecological frontier,' should be protected with utmost responsibility from frauds. This is the reason behind the DENR’s stringent laws and policies on wildlife and its scrutiny of individuals who want to gain access or control over these species," Cimatu said.

PCSD Executive Director Teodoro Jose Matta met with Dr. Rosalee Tequillo, who identified herself as the national facilitator of the National Redemption Program for Fossilized Giant Clams and "buyer" of the giant clams for scientific purposes.

"There was an admission on the part of Dr. Tequillo that they were engaged in the collection and possession of giant clamshells or 'taklobo' (Tridacna gigas) but she was not able to prove that it was for scientific purposes. Her mention of the 'buyer' has inclined us to believe that it was not truly for scientific or breeding or propagation purpose," Matta explained.

He said that Tequillo failed to provide valid documentary evidence to prove that their activities are legal.

"She was also not able to present any document from the Office of the President (OP) about the National Redemption Program. The only evidence she presented is a document purportedly from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) National Director Commodore Eduardo Gongona which they use to justify their collection and possession of giant clam species," Matta said.

"But upon examination of said document, the PCSDS (Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff) found that it did not and does not, in any way give, Dr. Tequillo and her group or any private individual any authority to collect, extract or possess fossilized giant clam species," he added.

The PCSDS warned the group that "the conduct of such undertaking under the guise of possessing legal authority from the OP and the BFAR and misinforming the public, carry the imposition of corresponding sanctions under the law."
The DENR, through PCSD, said it is currently building a case against the culprits behind the illegal trade of giant clams in Johnson Island and Green Island in Roxas, Palawan for violation of Republic Act (RA) 9147 or Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.

Matta said the PCSD will "remain firm in its commitment to clamp down on illegal wildlife trade in Palawan and ensure a sustainable environment for Palaweños."

PCSD is an attached agency of the DENR by virtue of Executive Order No. 734 series of 2008. ###