BACOLOD City – Three fishermen were arrested by Sagay City police for hoarding “endangered” giant clams at Barangay Molocaboc Thursday.
Police identified the suspects as Felix Causapin, 60; Lito Cañete, 49; and Adan Atabelo, 54, all residents of the Molocaboc.
Police Major Antonio Benitez Jr., Sagay City police chief, said they served a search warrant against the suspects.
The police were accompanied by officials from the Negros Occidental Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), Task Force Lawod, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Office.
The search warrant was issued for violation of Republic Act 10654 or “An act to prevent, deter, and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.”
Judge Joanne Fraces Nifras of the Municipal Trial Courts in Cities in Cadiz City signed the warrant dated April 3, 2019.
127 pieces of Giant Clams, locally known as “manlot”, were recovered.
Resource Assessment Head of Sagay Marine Reserve Jose Roberto Togle said that they received a report from concerned citizen of Molocaboc that the suspects where hoarding the clams since February 2019.
Togle said that in the past months, they were verifying the report as Sagay Marine Reserve Superintendent Mayo Antonio Cueva gave orders to further investigate the information.
He also said that the arrested fisher-folk were allegedly contracted by an anonymous buyer who offered to buy the clams at P1,000 per kilo.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature identified the Giant Clams as vulnerable species and facing high risk of extinction in the wild.
The law states that the offender can be penalized with a fine equivalent to five times the value of the species or P500,000 to P5,000,000; and imprisonment of 12 to 20 years and a fine equivalent to twice the administrative fine; forfeiture of the species; and cancellation of fishing permit.
Togle also said some of the fossilized Manlot they recovered were a meter long and some are already 50 years old.
Sagay City Mayor Alfredo Marañon III said in a statement that the crime against the environment “is a crime against our very own survival as vulnerable species like giant clams play a critical role in protecting our reefs.”
Marañon also recommended to the authorities that the confiscated clams will be turned over to the Museo sang Bata sang Negros for educational purposes.