More than 1,500 live turtles were reportedly smuggled by a Filipino from Hong Kong which violated the law on wildlife conservation and protection.
Authorities of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on March 3, Sunday discovered four abandoned suitcases in Terminal 2 that they believed belonged to an unidentified Filipino passenger who came from a flight in Hong Kong.
“The passenger may have been informed of the vigilance of the port against illegal wildlife trade and its penalties, thus leaving the 4 x-rayed luggage unclaimed in the arrival area,” the Bureau of Customs reported.
The turtles were duct-taped, placed into plastic containers and then piled into suitcases.
Some of the turtle species are endangered or threatened, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. These include star tortoises, red-footed tortoises, sulcata tortoises and red-eared sliders.
Under Republic Act 9147 or the “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act,” it is prohibited “to willfully and knowingly exploit wildlife resources and their habitats.”
The law protects and regulates the collection and trade of wildlife species. It also initiates scientific studies on the conservation of biological diversity.
Specific actions deemed unlawful include killing, collecting, hunting, possessing and/or transporting them and inflicting injury on their reproductive system, among others.
Varying sanctions are imposed on those who violate the law as it depends on the extinction risk of the species—whether they are critical, endangered, vulnerable or threatened.
For illegal transport of wildlife species, any person found guilty may face imprisonment of six months to one year and/or be fined for P50,000 to P100,000 if it involves species deemed critically endangered.
If a person was found guilty of killing critical species, he may be jailed for a minimum of six years and/or be fined for up to P1,000,000.