TAGBILARAN CITY, March 30 (PIA)—“Dili man ni sanga, pague man ni.” (This is not the meat of the banned manta, this is another kind.
By this thin line of excuse, traders of poached manta birostris better known in Bohol as sanga, sell the protected rare giant Atlantic manta ray meat in raw, dried or processed and easily get away with it.
Starting next week, April 4, the lame excuse of selling manta meat because they are not from the biriostris kind stops as the whole country enforces a full ban on taking, possessing and transporting all big manta rays.
The Convention on International Treaties on Endangered Species (CITES), a 1973 international agreement between governments to protect endangered species of plants and animals from being extinct due to international trade and over harvest, has listed the manta ray as among its rare, endangered and species threatened to extinction.
The classification is also based on the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as the manta birostris (Giant Manta Ray) along with the Manta Alfredi (Reef Manta Ray) also found in Bohol are being in the red list as vulnerable to extinction.
In the Philippines, Section 97 of the RA 8550 of the Fisheries Code of the Philippines states that it is unlawful to fish or take rare, threatened or endangered species as listed in the CITES and as determined by the Department.
Meanwhile, section 2 of Fisheries Administrative Order No 193 issued by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) prohibits the taking, catching, selling, purchasing, possessing, transporting or exporting manta rays, be they dead or alive, whether raw of processed state.
In addition, the same order prohibits wounding or killing manta rays in the course of catching fish, any manta ray caught in nets shall be immediately released unharmed, dead mantas washed in shore shall be surrendered to the BFAR for proper disposition.
Incidentally, the CITES recently includes the manta rays other than the manta birostris on the Appendix 2.
Mobulids (pagi or pantihan) have been classified similarly, announces Fisheries Regulatory Officer Pedro Milana at the recent Provincial Oeace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting
As FAO 193 took effect in 1998 focusing its protection on the manta birostris, by April 4, already included in the ban are manta alfredi (Giant reef manta), the mobula eregoodootenke (Pygmy Devil Ray) commonly known in Bohol as “pilong, mobula japanica (Japanese devil ray) or binsulan, mobula tarapacana (sicklefin devil ray), mobula thurstuni (Bentfin Devil Ray) or masinaw and mobula Khuli (lesser devil ray).
This development is expected to stir anew the already troubled fisheries waters in the region.
It may be recalled that last month, elements of the Philippine Coast Guard in Panglao, on a routine patrol in Baclayon chanced upon 2 tons of manta birostris meat for transport to Pamilacan Island.
The carrier said she bought the meat from a fisherman in Jagna, which still has an unregulated manta trading industry.
According to the BFAR, violation of section 2 of RA 8550 like catching, selling, transporting and possessing aquatic species listed in the Appendix 2 and 3 of the CITES, will both have administrative and criminal liabilities.
For the Administrative liability, the culprits would be fined three times the value of the species transported or possessed or P3 million, whichever is higher.
And the government forfeits the traded or possessed specie.
For the criminal liability, a culprit can be imprisoned for 5 to 8 years, a fine twice that of the administrative fine and forfeiture of species, Milana stressed.
As the news about the capture of the illegal meat spread across social media, locals in Bohol who have been hooked to the exotic manta ray meat pointed out more issues needing resolve.
Reports also came out that there is a bustling manta ray meat trading in Jagna, and that Boholanos continue to buy the dried meat for its accordingly delectable taste.
Boholanos love to cook the manta ray meat into linabug: a coconut milk cooked spicy meat, or manta skin cooked in coconut milk and green jackfruit or humbang banggis, or coal grilled sanga.
Other Boholanos said sanga sashimi is a superb delicacy.
In several areas, sanga gills commend a high price for pharmacological use, sources said.
The ban and enforcement however is expected to force Boholanos to shirk off the exotic food offer for the steep penalties.
BFAR said while they are undermanned to implement the law, very few people know which is manta ray meat of that from simple mobulas.
The while ban now makes it easy for enforcers to apprehend, since traders will now have no more excuse to sell sanga as pague and get away with it. (rahc/PIA-7/Bohol)