MEMBERS of the newly created Environmental Law Enforcement and Protection Service (ELEPS) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) seized 18 kilograms of agarwood valued at P2.9 million from illegal traders, the Environment department reported on Wednesday.

The sale of agarwood, a rare and expensive raw material used in perfumes, is illegal in the Philippines.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in a statement, said operatives confiscated the agarwood from two suspects in Quezon City on June 15.

DENR said the wood’s value may be 10 times the reported price considering the environmental cost, which is crucial when evaluating the impact of environmental crimes.

“The real worth of the contraband is placed at ₱29 million, or at least 10 times more than its market value, if we will factor in the environmental services that were lost as a result of the illegal cutting of these threatened trees,” ELEPS Director Reuel Sorilla said.

ELEPS officer Rogelio D. Demelletes, Jr. explained that agarwood is extracted from the Lapnisan and Lanete trees, both in the DENR’s national list of threatened Philippine plants based on an administrative order issued in 2007.

“It is very difficult to tell if a tree has produced agarwood, and so this results in the indiscriminate cutting of Lapnisan and Lanete,” he said.

On Wednesday, the DENR said the two suspects are now detained at an NBI facility and facing charges for violating the Wildlife Resources and Protection Act and the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.

If convicted, they face a jail term of six to 12 years, and a fine ranging between P100,000 to P1 million.

Earlier this month, the DENR announced the creation of the ELEPS, an interim body which will focus on enforcing environment protection laws as the department waits for the passage of a proposed legislation creating a new agency for that purpose. — Angelica Y. Yang