By Liza Jocson
ZAMBOANGA CITY— After years in hiding, a businesswoman wanted for illegally trading marine species has been arrested by authorities.
SPO2 Alex Mabalot, spokesperson for the city police office, said Olivia Lim Li was arrested during an operation conducted by several law enforcement agencies in Barangay Santa Maria here on Friday.
Li was the trader identified as the owner of some P35 million in marine species seized at Eva Macapagal Port in Manila in 2011.
The 2011 seizure also prompted the Senate to conduct an investigation of the trade of banned marine species here, including black and red corals.
Mabalot said Li, 48, owned Lim and Li Trading.
Li is facing charges of violating Republic Act No. 8550, or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, that bans coral gathering and sale. She also faces charges of violating laws on fish conservation.
Mabalot said Li’s arrest was backed by warrants issued by Judge Manuel Recto of the Municipal Trial Court in Manila and by Acting Judge Amalia S. Gumapos Ricablanca of the Regional Trial Court Branch 12 here.
Li and her husband, Joe Pring, had disappeared when authorities raided their establishments here in 2011 following the seizure in Manila of two containers stuffed with black corals, sea turtles and other endangered shells.
Pring remains at large, along with other suspects.
The trade and smuggling of endangered marine species here continue, officials admitted, but efforts to stop them have yielded positive results.
In August, more than 100 sacks of seashells belonging to endangered species were also seized by Philippine Navy personnel in the waters between this city and Basilan province.
Pedling Munap, chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources here, said the contraband consisted of 104 jute sacks weighing 30 kilograms each.
Among the banned species being transported were king helmet shells (Cassis tuberosa) and horned helmet shells (Cassis cornuta).
The shells were seized from a jungkong-type vessel, which was suspected to have come from Tawi-Tawi province, Munap said. Jungkong is a motorized boat that does not have an outrigger.
Munap had said authorities believed the contraband was to be transferred to a larger vessel here and taken to Manila, Cebu or Iloilo, where there are lucrative markets for the shells.
Each shell could fetch as high as P250, Munap said.
In June this year, a man selling endangered marine species on the Internet, who had been described as part of a large network of marine wildlife traffickers, was also arrested in Pagadian City.
A massive search on his house yielded more than 300 assorted endangered marine and wildlife products.
Earl Frederick Galupo’s arrest came after authorities monitored his activities when he posted photos of endangered marine species on the online business portal www.olx.com.ph.
In July last year, authorities also made several arrests and seized dozens of turtles in Tawi-Tawi.
The biggest raids so far were those carried out in this city between 2005 and 2011, where tons of corals and other marine species were seized from several Chinese-Filipino businessmen.