The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has seized over 30 large sacks of illegally collected stems of the threatened Philippine bantigue, a plant species popularly used in making bonsai.

The collection, selling and transport of bantigue (Pemphis acidula) is prohibited under Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

A composite team led by the DENR’s Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade or Task Force POGI confiscated 34 sacks of bantigue, estimated to cost around Php300,000on August 9, 2018.

The teamcaught the suspect in flagrante delicto in a residential house located at Barangay Umiray in General Nakar town, Quezon province.In flagrantedelictoisa legal term used to indicate that a criminal has been caught in the act of committing an offense.

At least six bags contained freshly cut bantigue stems, and the rest contained dried stems used as raw materials for accessories and firewood.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the recent operation and seizure of valuable wildlife species only showed that the government remains resolute on its fight against poaching and illegal wildlife trade.

The former military chief said the DENR will continue to go after wildlife traders, who are pushing some wild animals and plants to the brink of extinction.

“We will continue to hunt for perpetrators who use the natural resources for illegal purposes and for their own selfish interests,” Cimatu stressed.

The DENR, through its Biodiversity Management Bureau, has already filed a case against the bonsai trader Pedrito Fabros, 39, for violating the provisions of RA 9147.

Under RA 9147, the possession, selling and transport of bantigue is punishable by six-year imprisonment and a fine amounting up to P200,000.

The agency is also looking at the possibility of filing a case against Fabros for violating the Presidential Decree No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.

A kind of mangrove species, bantigue is listed in DENR Administrative Order 2017-11 under category of threatened Philippine plants. It is also listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

The plant species is commonly used for creating bonsai, a Japanese art of cultivating miniature trees in pots.

Joining POGI operatives in the raid wereenforcers from the DENR Task Force Metro Manila, Environmental Crime Division of the National Bureau of Investigation, DENR-Calabarzon regional office, and the community environment and natural resources offices in Dingalan, Aurora and Real, Quezon. ###