Coral poachers 'may be behind Customs chief's relief'

CEBU CITY -- Importers and exporters here suspect that influential corals poachers are behind the transfer of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Port of Cebu police division chief one week after he refused a P2-million offer in exchange for the release of P15-million worth of black corals he apprehended early this month. Captain Jerry Arrizabal, the commander of the Port of Cebu customs police division, refused the offer, which was coursed through a Muslim who is also working with the government bureau. Senator Jose Miguel Zubiri said he will summon BOC officials to appear in the Senate investigation next month in connection with Arrizabal's relief and the P2-million offer. Also, Zubiri clarified Saturday that he has not issued any proposal banning the export of shells and its by-products. Zubiri, chairman of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, said they are still investigating the circumstances of the particular case of the black corals, turtles and other marine life that were apprehended by the BOC in Manila and Cebu. Zubiri said such proposal was made by a resource person by the name of Anna Oposa of the Law of Nature Foundation who attended the Senate investigation on massive coral poaching. "Oposa suggested during the said hearing that these shell crafts be banned and not by the committee head," the senator said. Last week, the exporters group, among them Joy Sharpe, Antonio Chua and Elmer Jugalbot, criticized Zubiri for it. The senator was in Cebu City to inspect the facilities of the newly built Eye Referral Center, laser and eye bank in Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC), a state-run hospital. He also expressed his commitment to provide financial support through his Priority Development Assistance Fund. The VSMMC aims to render affordable eye-care services to patients regardless of financial status. With this, Zubiri pledged his assistance for better medical services for Cebuanos. (EOB/JBT/Sun.Star Cebu)