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Legarda calls for heavy penalties for slaughter of endangered pangolins

April 16, 2013

Sen. Loren Legarda today expressed alarm over the discovery of more than 20,000 pounds of meat from the endangered pangolin in the Chinese vessel that ran aground in Tubbataha and urged the authorities to dig deeper into the matter.

She said the discovery of the banned cargo should prod Philippine Navy and Coast Guard authorities to exercise the highest vigilance as similar illegal activities could be taking place off Philippine waters.

Legarda, Senate foreign relations committee chair and a staunch environmentalist, said the crew of the Chinese crew members violated not only the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act but also international law on trading in endangered species.

“These Chinese crew members are heartless and cruel. They not only rammed their vessel into a World Heritage Site and destroyed valuable marine resources but also slaughtered an endangered species,” Legarda said as she asked Philippine authorities to file the appropriate charges against them. Besides facing poaching charges, the Chinese crew members could be charged with possessing and trading in endangered species.

The Chinese vessel, which struck a section of the Tubbataha National Marine Park last April 8, was carrying 400 crates of frozen pangolins, also known as the scaly anteater.

An international ban on the trade of pangolins was imposed in 2002. According to the International Union of Conversation of Nature, two species, the Sunda and the Chinese pangolin, are endangered. Another two species, including the Philippine pangolin, are classified as near threatened.

Legarda said Philippine naval and Coast Guard authorities should be on the lookout for similar cargoes and deploy additional personnel and vessels in the area.

“It’s good that the Chinese vessel ran aground in the area and we were able to discover their illegal cargo. What if they were able to pass by undetected and continue with their illegal activity? More harm would have been inflicted by them on our marine resources,” Legarda said.