i-Witness: The Uwang Trade

Kara David exposed the secret export of beetles locally known as uwang from the lush forests of Palawan to countries throughout Asia.

I-Witness documentarist Kara David investigates how the insects are exported. In the lush forests of Palawan, she joins the Pala’wan tribe as they climb trees as high as four-storey buildings to gather the special beetle. After many hours of walking to the nearest towns, middlemen collect the beetles from the tribesmen. The middlemen wrap them like candy in plastic and bring them to Manila where they are surreptitiously shipped abroad.

In Taiwan, Japan and Korea, the uwang are kept as pets or made to fight one another in various games. They are also mixed in food and drinks and sometimes made into decor.

Under Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act, it is prohibited to capture, sell, or kill any living creature in the wild without the corresponding permit.