Elephant tusks can be smuggled into the country by boat through Mindanao, that’s why it’s better for authorities to go straight to the buyers to catch the illegal traders, Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon said Wednesday.
Biazon said the tusks could be smuggled in small quantities by small craft landing on the shores of Mindanao or hidden in the luggage of airline passengers, without being detected by the authorities. On his watch, no such shipment has been seized in the country’s ports.
Four elephant tusks could be worth hundreds of thousands or millions of pesos, he said.
Go to market
“It’s possible they’re being smuggled in pieces by boat through the backdoor. You can land on any shore; we don’t have presence in all shores. If that is the case, it’s difficult to monitor their entry,” he said by phone.
But the tusks are bound to surface in the market, and this is where the law enforcement agents should concentrate their operations to catch the traders, Biazon said.
“There’s a bigger chance that the ivory tusks would surface in the market. They have to advertise it,” he said. “So, if we want to catch the traders, the point of attack should be the market.”
The market could include stores selling ivory statues, or big-time collectors of ivory statues, the commissioner said.
“They should start with him. He should be the first to be investigated,” Biazon said, referring to Msgr. Cristobal Garcia, who keeps a collection of religious icons made of ivory.
In its October cover story, “Ivory Worship,” written by Bryan Christy, National Geographic reported the Philippines had become one of the destinations of tusks of butchered African elephants.
Christy said he had been advised by Garcia how to smuggle religious icons made of ivory into the United States.