Joint operatives of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have arrested four individuals caught transporting several kilos of agarwood, a threatened and much sought-after tree species.
The four, identified as Ramil Ong, Bernie Bagay, Rizal Mofar and Arjhun Gaviola, were apprehended in two separate operations conducted by the DENR’s Environmental Protection and Enforcement Task Force (EPETF) and the NBI-Environmental Crime Division in Pasig City and Cainta, Rizal last 8 June.
The environmental enforcers seized from the suspects almost 20 kilos of agarwood valued at P3.2 million.
Agarwood is one of the most expensive raw materials used in perfumery, costing at least P160,000 per kilo in the Philippines.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu lauded DENR and NBI enforcers for their unrelenting efforts to go after environmental criminals despite the quarantine restrictions and other measures imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“This clearly sends out the message that the government’s campaign against environmental offenders remains unrelenting despite a pandemic that is wreaking havoc worldwide,” Cimatu said.The four suspects were charged with violations of Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources and Protection Act and Presidential Decree 705, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines. They are detained at the NBI detention facility in Manila while awaiting court proceedings.
Rogelio Demelletes Jr., a senior ecosystems management specialist and member of EPETF, said initial investigation showed that the seized agarwood shipments were of high-grade quality and likely poached from the forests of Mindanao, particularly Surigao and Agusan provinces.
Agarwood is extracted from host trees locally known as Lapnisan and Lanete, which are both included in the national list of threatened Philippine plants per DENR Administrative Order 2007-01.
According to Demelletes, a high-grade agarwood can be sold for as high $30,000 per kilo and its trafficking has spawned indiscriminate cutting of Lanete and Lapnisan trees.
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