The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will strictly monitor wildlife shipments entering or leaving the country’s airports and seaports as part of an intensified campaign against poaching and wildlife trafficking.
Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu recently issued a memorandum directing all regional directors of the DENR to beef up surveillance at ports of entry in order to curb wildlife trafficking.
To recall, Rep. Josephine Y. Ramirez-Sato of the Lone District of Occidental Mindoro called the attention of the DENR chief following the confiscation of 70 dead marine turtles in the province of Palawan last month.
The lawmaker from Mindoro is worried that the DENR is being lax in its duty to prevent illegal-wildlife trade. Mindoro and Palawan belong to the Mimaropa region, which boast of rich environment and endemic wildlife. Both islands hosts visiting and nesting marine turtles.
A member of the powerful Commission on Appointments, Ramirez-Sato has filed a bill seeking to expand the coverage of the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act.
She said the DENR chief should intensify the campaign against illegal-wildlife trade, noting that Mindoro is also a potential target of wildlife traffickers.
In response, Cimatu said he had instructed the DENR field officials to monitor activities in marketplaces and other establishments that are engaged in wildlife trade.
“It is about time that we strictly enforce the provisions of Republic Act [RA] 9147, also known as the Wildlife Resources and Protection Act, in order for us to address the problem of wildlife trafficking in the country,” Cimatu said in a statement.
At the same time, he directed the DENR regional directors to work on increasing public awareness of the need to protect wildlife resources.
“We also need to heighten our information campaign to effectively raise awareness and educate the public about wildlife crimes and how local communities can help protect and conserve the country’s rich biological diversity,” Cimatu told the regional directors.
He said regional offices must establish “collaborative mechanisms” with all concerned agencies, local government units and the media “to ensure cohesive efforts and transparency in law enforcement”.
“The DENR needs to work more closely with its partners, including local communities and law-enforcement agencies, in detecting and preventing wildlife crimes,” Cimatu said.
He vowed that the DENR will “use the full force of the law” to go after perpretators of wildlife crimes. Cimatu cited the case of two individuals whom the DENR-attached agency Palawan Council for Sustainable Development sued in court for their involvement in the death of 70 marine turtles or pawikan in Dumara, Palawan, last month.
The suspects, identified as Rico Gonzales and Kim Artistotiles, were charged and arrested for violation of Section 27 of RA 9147, which prohibits the collection, hunting and possession of wildlife, including its by-products and derivatives, and their transport without the necessary permit.