CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has strengthened its wildlife enforcement efforts by enhancing the skills and knowledge of at least 100 DENR field personnel and partner enforcement officers from other national government agencies, private institutions and the academe.
Arthur Salazar, deputy director for Technical Services, stressed wildlife law enforcement plays a crucial role in ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife resources since illegal wildlife trade remains to be one of the primary threats to the region’s abundant biodiversity.
“In Central Luzon, we have strengthened our effort to stop illegal wildlife trade by upholding our policy improvements and forging partnerships with other government agencies and organizations,” he explained.
He said, last March, the DENR has entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) to operationalize a Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit (WTMU) that will effectively monitor and address the cases involving the transport or trading of wildlife resources.
“Our WTMU is a fundamental element to combat illegal wildlife trade in the region. Apart from sustaining our ecological balance, it is likewise important to our national security, since more often than not, wild-caught animals in trade are also known vectors of diseases which pose risk to human health,” he added.
Amid the region’s rich natural resources and strategic location, Central Luzon has emerged as among the “hot spots” for wildlife trafficking in the Philippines.
In fact, by year 2016, seven vulnerable wildlife—including four pangolins and three spitting cobras—both under the “Red List” of animals threatened with extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), were turned over to the DENR after a successful operation with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Clark International Airport against a suspected Chinese wildlife smuggler.
“Since 2016, a total of 69 wildlife was surrendered to the DENR, primarily composed of Philippine eagle, reticulated python, grass owl, soft shell turtle, and among others,” Enforcement Division Chief Fred Sadueste reported.
The three-day learning activity held recently, centered on the enforcement of Republic Act 9147, otherwise known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001. This provided participants the standard operating procedures on monitoring, surveillance, confiscation of wildlife specimen, evidence-gathering, case-building, and apprehension of law violators.
The participants were also taught of the salient points of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) law, fisheries enforcement protocol, procedures on wildlife permitting, wildlife handling and safety management, and the legal bases used for environmental cases.
The newly trained participants from the other government agencies will now be deputized by the DENR as wildlife enforcement officers (WEO) that will help in enforcing the various laws, rules, and regulations involved in the protection and conservation of wildlife species.
“Having WEO from our partner agencies will help DENR to score more convictions against wildlife criminals and attain our ultimate goal of abating illegal collection and trade of wildlife resources,” Salazar ended.