Government team probing priest over ivory trade barred-A A +A
Saturday, September 29, 2012
CEBU CITY -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Visayas and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) began their investigation on a priest’s ivory collection by visiting his convent and residence in Barangay Cansojong, Talisay City on Friday.
But the investigating team was not allowed to enter the Archdiocesan Shrine of the Black Nazarene, the Society of the Angels of Peace (SAP) and Msgr. Cristobal Garcia’s residence because they were accompanied by news reporters, said DENR information officer Dr. Eddie Llamedo.
DENR Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo said they learned that Garcia was confined in a hospital so they decided to defer interviews with him.
A National Geographic article in the magazine’s October issue on the illegal ivory trade mentions Garcia.
Lawyer Bryan Christy, the author of “Ivory Worship,” alleged that the priest gave him pointers on how to smuggle items made of ivory, which has been banned for 22 years.
DENR-Central Visayas executive director Isabelo Montejo said in a press statement that the investigation will not only focus on Church officials but will also include private persons and shops in Central Visayas.
“We will determine if these pieces … have the needed certifications or permits from appropriate agencies,” he added.
Adobo said the DENR has information on other areas and other ivory collectors, but he refused to give names.
He said the owners of items made of ivory should be able to show that they bought these from legal sources.
“If not, they would be liable under the anti-fencing law. They can’t say that they do not know the law,” said Adobo during a press conference at the DENR-Central Visayas office on Friday.
Those who possess raw ivory must be able to present documents certifying that the item comes from a legal source. Owners of finished products need only to show a receipt or proof of purchase from a legitimate source.
The investigation team will involve wildlife research personnel who can determine if the item is made of real ivory.
Since DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) testing is expensive, investigators will have to resort to applying heat to the item to determine if it is made of ivory and not plastic or resin.
Adobo said they are inviting other organizations to join the investigating team such as the National Museum, which has expertise on heritage items, and the Bureau of Customs and other agencies specified in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) management team.
Cites imposed a ban on ivory trade starting in 1990. (BAP/Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 29, 2012.