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DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – Authorities arrested more than a dozen suspected traders and poachers of agarwood, including foreigners, and seized P145 million worth of the so-called “wood of the gods” in Davao del Norte, officials said on Monday, October 10.
Police arrested 17 suspects in the village of Magugpo East in Tagum City, the capital of Davao del Norte, on Friday, October 7.
Confiscated from the suspects were 145 kilograms of the expensive agarwood, each kilo valued at P1 million, during the operation staged by a joint team of various police offices, the Coast Guard, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Davao Region.
Agarwood comes from the non-timber species locally known as the lapnisan or aquilaria tree which can be found in Southeast Asia.
The tree itself is practically worthless until it catches a mold infection, and its parts produce pathogens as its defense mechanism.
The process turns the wood into agarwood which is used in making incense, perfume, and small, expensive carvings. In some countries, agarwood is used for traditional medicine.
The problem is that the tree species that produce agarwood can be found in the wild in the Davao Region where cutting trees is prohibited.
Brigadier General Benjamin Silo, the police director for the Davao Region, said the arrests signal a police crackdown on illegal agarwood traders and poachers in the region.
He said authorities were preparing charges against the suspects for violation of the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, and the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines.
Police said three of those arrested were Malaysians Hamdam Zakaria, Alyasah Zakaria, and Shahidan Saari, and their interpreter Dennis Asuncion.
The other suspects were from different places in Leyte and the Davao Region.
Police identified the following 13 suspects:
- Philip Duray Tayabas Macangao
- Renato Atumay Bosquit
- Jay Ralph Rebao
- Mark Lester Geneston
- Benjamin Alfeche Jani Jr.
- Arnolfo dela Cerna Ishikawa
- Jacqueline Sato
- Ricky Inojales
- Richard Talisa Layan
- Edwin Duray Lawanis
- Elmer Akhmad Sison
- Jay Glen Sarsonas Anzon
- Roldan Tupiasan
The exact place where the confiscated pieces of agarwood were sourced was still unclear as of this posting.
The arrested Malaysians and Asuncion were taken into custody by the police’s Regional Special Operations Group, while the rest of the suspects were taken to the Tagum City Police Station.
Police said the Malaysians, who had P4.3 million in cash with them, were the buyers of agarwood. – Rappler.com