By Liza Jocson
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—The Chinese-Filipino trader arrested by authorities for a 2011 case of trafficking marine species has been released after paying a P4,000 bail bond.
Olivia Li was arrested on Friday last week to face charges of trafficking marine wildlife species. She posted bail and was released on the same day.
Li’s arrest was in connection with the seizure of at least two containers of black corals, sea turtles and endangered shells in Manila in 2011.
It came three days before the arrival here of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) National Director Asis Perez to attend a court hearing for yet another case filed against Li in connection with the illegal transport of endangered marine species.
In an interview, Perez said the P4,000 bail bond under the Fisheries Code is specific and does not depend on the volume of prohibited items transported.
“I guess this is an area for law reform but right now, there’s nothing we can do,” Perez said.
Li is facing charges of violating Republic Act No. 8550, or the Fisheries Code of the Philippines, which outlaws the gathering, transport and trade of endangered marine species and corals.
Perez arrived on Tuesday morning as a main witness during the hearing of another case filed against Li.
The case stemmed from the confiscation of 41 metric tons of endangered marine species, which allegedly belonged to Li, in a warehouse in the city.
Other respondents included Li’s husband Li Yu Ming, also known as Joe Pring, and Benny Yu and Rosario Yu, the owners of the warehouse where the contraband was found.
The case, another violation of the Fisheries Code, is pending in the Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 16, presided over by Judge Catherine Fabian.
The confiscation was said to have been conducted a week after customs officials intercepted two shipping containers filled with endangered marine species worth P35 million at Eva Macapagal Super Terminal in Manila.
The discovery of the two containers put the spotlight on the rampant smuggling and illegal transport of endangered species, which led to a Senate investigation in the same year.
Li and her husband were reported to have fled the country before the Senate inquiry. Pring remains at large.
Perez said the couple were facing several cases at the RTC and the Municipal Trial Court in Manila and in Zamboanga City.
The minimal bail bond prescribed for the offense contributes to the continued violation of the Fisheries Code, Perez said.