Customs seizes Taiwan-bound softshell turtles


Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña holds one of the Taiwan-bound Chinese softshell turtles that was intercepted Friday afternoon, November 10, 2017, in a warehouse at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.  BENJIE L. VERGARA

CUSTOMS seized Taiwan bound Chinese softshell turtles at a cargo warehouse in Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), an official said on Saturday.

The cargo, loaded with 123 live turtles mixed with live eels, was scheduled to leave Manila on Friday at 5 p.m. when it was intercepted by Customs officials.

District III Collector Ramon Anquilan said Customs Export Division personnel, led by Rey Gatchalian, discovered the content 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, which reportedly originated from Pampanga, have no permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) — 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.

These Chinese softshell turtles can be found on rice fields in Bulacan and Pampanga preying on rats, snakes, insects, and other living things considered as endangered species. Rice plants and other plant life are also part of the turtles’ diet.

The Chinese softshell turtle, according to BOC Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, who went to NAIA after arriving from Davao, is one of the delicacies in Taiwan and China. Its market price is 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 their container went through x-ray examination.

The pit vipers, Philippine Cobras, and the sailfin lizards are considered endangered species.

All wildlife specimens were properly turned over to the DENR, except for the cargo of live eels, which has a DENR permit allowing it to be flown to Taiwan, Customs officials said.

Lapeña said that the bureau was also “committed to keeping our environmental resources by protecting our borders from all forms of smuggling and illegal activities.”   BENJIE L. VERGARA



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