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P8.1 million worth of fossilized giant clam shells seized along shoreline in Palawan

By Yoniel Acebuche Published Feb 19, 2024 5:25 pm

Most people receive flowers and chocolates on Valentine's Day, but for residents of Barangay Sebaring, Balabac in Palawan, 336 pieces of fossilized giant clam shells with an estimated market value of P8.1 million came their way.

Fossilized giant clam shells, locally known as taklobo or manlet, were recovered at the shoreline of the barangay on Wednesday, Feb. 14, the Coast Guard District Palawan (CGDPAL) reported.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) helped local authorities recover the mollusks and turned them over to the local government for temporary custody. 

In a report by local outlet Palawan News, Coast Guard Station Southwestern Palawan (CGSSWP) Ens. Gabriel Infante shared that personnel walking along Barangay Sebring's shores accidentally discovered the giant clam shell. 

"Because of strong waves during that time, the waves washed off the sands, exposing the shells. So suspecting that there might be more, we dug up and found the pile covered with sand," Infante said to the media outlet. 

Moreover, Infante added that they still need to identify the owner of the shells as resident fishermen along the area were denied knowledge of the shells.

Cases of illegal trade of giant clams in the Philippines

Under Republic Act No. 10654 or the Philippine Fisheries Code, harvesting, buying, or transporting of giant clams is illegal in the country. In 2021, PCG arrested four suspects at Sitio Green Island in Barangay Tumarbong, Roxas Palawan, for the seizure of 200 tons of taklobo, amounting to P1.2 billion.

According to PCG District Palawan Commander Commodore Genito Basilio, the incident was considered the "biggest giant clam shell haul in the province."

Suspects were apprehended and presented to the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) for inquest proceedings. They were accused of violating the Philippine Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act and appropriate cases were filed against them.

Meanwhile, on March 3, 2021, law enforcement officials also seized 324 pieces of giant clam shells weighing a total of 80 tons from Johnson Island in northern Palawan. This confiscation resulted from two separate raids carried out to combat the illegal trade of giant clam shells that has been taking place every month since October 2021.

'Giant clams are a protected species'

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in the Philippines issued a statement in 2021 calling for an end to the illegal seizing of taklobo as they are important to the ecosystem.

"[Taklobo] host marine algae which serve as a food source for many fish that are consumed by humans. The surging illegal trade of taklobo has a direct impact on our food security, not to mention we are depriving our children of a healthy and functioning marine ecosystem," it said.

The organization also stated that giant clams are classified as endangered species and possession, transporting, and trading of these is considered illegal under the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act or Republic Act No. 9147.

Anyone who kills or destroys wildlife species categorized as threatened could face two years in prison or a fine of P20,000, according to the Act.

Likewise, "fossilized shells are classified as natural history specimens" and are protected under the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. Therefore, all fossils should be regulated exclusively by the National Museum.