The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Saturday seized Taiwan bound Chinese softshell turtles at a cargo warehouse in Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
The cargo, loaded with 123 live turtles mixed with live eels, was scheduled to leave Manila on Friday at 5p.m. when it was intercepted by Customs officials.
BOC District III Collector Ramon Anquilan said the Customs Export Division personnel led by Rey Gatchalian discovered the contents of the cargo when it went through manual examination.
Customs officials said the shipment was consigned to Jan Birt Co. Ltd. with address at 1F-1, No. 178. Sec. 1 Zhengxiao E. Rd. Zhongsheng District, Taipei City, and shipped by 3H enterprises Limited Inc. of 97 Panginay, Guiguinto, Bulacan.
The turtles that reportedly originated from Pampanga have no Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) permits, which is a requirement prior to exportation.
“These turtles aside from being endemic to China and Taiwan can also be farmed. They are usually harvested for food and folk remedy tonics. However, the continuous consumption and exploitation may cause its extinction,” Anquilan told reporters.
The Chinese softshell turtles can also be found in the rice fields of Bulacan and Pampanga preying on rats, snakes, insects and other living things. The turtle species is considered an endangered species. Rice plants and other plant life are also included to the reptiles’ diet.
The Chinese softshell turtles, according to BOC Commissioner Isidro Lapeña who went to NAIA after arriving from Davao, is one of the delicacies in Taiwan and China.
The market price of the turtle ranges from $39 to $40 each.
On October 26, Customs official seized a package bound for Sweden declared as sweet pastries but was found to contain a pit viper, four Philippine Cobras and 10 sailfin lizards.
Also, seven pit vipers bound for China were intercepted after it went through x-ray examination.
The pit vipers, Philippine Cobra and the sailfin lizards are considered endangered species.
All wildlife specimens were properly turned over to the DENR, except the live eels which have DENR permit and were later allowed to be flown to Taiwan, Customs officials said.
Lapeña said the BOC is also “committed to keeping our environmental resources by protecting our borders from all forms of smuggling and illegal activities.”