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Photo: Senator Miguel Zubiri cites in contempt Exequiel Navarro, consignee of seized shipment of black corals

Earlier today, the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources conducted a hearing on alleged smuggling of black corals, turtles, seashells and other marine life. The committee chairman, Mindanaoan Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, led the investigation.

Unfortunately, the consignee of the P35 million worth of seized shipment of black corals, Exequiel Navarro, was a no-show. This led Senator Migs Zubiri to cite Exequiel Navarro in contempt.

And rightly so.

For one, Navarro reportedly promised to cooperate with the investigation and even give the names of the financiers of this syndicate that allegedly smuggles corals and other marine life from the Philippine shores. According to Senator Zubiri, Navarro executed an affidavit on May 3, 2011. Now, he has become a headache. A headache who has most probably “lawyered up” and found someone who could “protect his rights.”

I have a theory — his most possible defense would be is that he’s but a mere dummy. Which begs me to ask — if he truly thinks he’s innocent, why did he not show up in the hearing today? Should we still give Exequiel Navarro the benefit of a doubt?

* Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri shows photo of Exequiel Navarro. Also in photo are Atty.Antonio Oposa (right) and Atty.Manuel Zurbito of Customs (photo by Arman Clemente)

In a privilege speech delivered two days ago before his fellow Senators, Zubiri said that on May 1, 2011 Super Ferry 5 arrived at the Eva Macapagal Domestic Terminal in Pier 15, South Harbor Manila from the Port of Cotabato. It has on its cargo two-20 footer container vans declared as containing “rubber” and consigned to a certain Mr. Exequiel Navarro. On May 2, 2011, acting on a tip of an informer, elements of the Enforcement and Security Service of the Customs Police Division of the Port of Manila conducted an operation and apprehended the said shipment from Cotabato City. Instead of rubber, the container vans yielded 134 bundles with 21,169 pieces of dried black corals (Sea Fans), 161 stuffed hawksbill and green turtles, 15 bundles or 196 kilograms of Sea Whips and 209 bundles or 7,340 pieces of rare sea shells. The Bureau of Customs immediately seized the items and coordinated with the DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau and DA’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. The items were reportedly taken or harvested from the Moro Gulf and the Sulu Sea.

Under BFAR Administrative Order No. 202, Series of 2000, harvesting and trade of black corals are prohibited and under CITES 1, which the Philippines is a signatory, trade of hawksbill turtles (an endangered species) is also prohibited.

Good God, doesn’t this piece of news just anger you?

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  • I feel so bad for the Phils when I see how other countries like Indonesia are protective of local resources and riches. We are perpetually hearing of people selling out our resources in a non-sustainable manner for quick get rich schemes, with no regard for the good of the nation. We used to be so rich in natural resources, but people like this (who should be whipped in public) are the ones to blame. I hope they find a way to punish the big fish and not just the puppets!

    • Hi there! Thanks so much for the comment. I agree, we should focus on the big fish. Unfortunately we both know that we hardly have any proper equipment so monitoring our natural resources can be a daunting task talaga. Whenever I see footages of the seized shipment of turtles, corals etc – I just feel so disappointed and frustrated at the same time.

  • Steve In Babylon

    There HAS to be a way of propagating black coral ( I do not claim to know for certain…), they propagate and farm seaweed, so why not? It could be a moneymaker for some clever person, and the ‘starts’ could be legally exported.

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