The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has scored yet another legal victory, this time against a man who was caught selling illegally harvested stalactites and stalagmites in 2016.

A Cavite court has rendered a guilty verdict in the trial of Joselito Laygan, who was accused of gathering and selling cave resources without authority from the DENR. Laygan was sentenced to pay the fine of P300,000.

This new development came just a week after the DENR reported the conviction of a wildlife trader, who was behind the illegal shipment of over 700 pieces of live tarantulas intercepted at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in 2019.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the twin victories were “an affirmation of the agency’s commitment to hold illegal wildlife traders accountable for their crimes against the Filipino people and the environment.”

“This decision comes at an opportune time when culprits are taking advantage of the challenges in travel and mobility of our environmental law enforcers,” he added.

“We want to show these environmental criminals how stringent the law is even in the middle of this crisis.”

In a five-page decision penned by Judge Mary Rocelyn Lim-Guillano and promulgated last December 10, the Bacoor City Municipal Trial Court found Laygan guilty of violating Section 7 of Republic Act 9072, or the National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act.

Such provision states that “gathering, collecting, possessing, consuming, selling, bartering or exchanging or offering for sale without authority for any cave resource is prohibited.”

Laygan was caught in the act of selling cave resources without the necessary permits during an entrapment operation conducted by the Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife or Task Force POGI in February 2016.

Task Force POGI is a composite team of wildlife enforcers from various agencies, including the Biodiversity Management Bureau, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Philippine National Police.

As penalty, Lagyan was ordered to pay Php300,000 with an interest rate of six percent per annum from the date of the finality of the decision until it is fully paid.

At the same time, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office in Cavite was directed to coordinate with the court for the turnover of the cave resources to the DENR Secretary for proper disposition.

Last week, the DENR announced that the Pasay City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 48 has convicted Jesse Camaro for illegally transporting 757 pieces of tarantula with an estimated value of P310,900 and customs duties and taxes amounting to P54,752.

Camaro was found guilty of violating RA 9147 or the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act and sentenced to six months imprisonment and fined P20,000. He was also fined P100,000 for violating RA 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act. ###