More than two hundred experts and interest groups from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao convened in a series of public consultations to review and propose amendments to the 18-year-old Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.
Attended by representatives from DENR national and regional offices, law enforcement agencies, port authorities, legal support groups, local government units, civil society, and the private sector, the reviews aimed to draw out insights into closing legal loopholes in the law that are being exploited by illegal wildlife collectors and traders.
Among the proposed revisions was defining and penalizing wildlife trafficking, which has been becoming a large-scale transnational crime operated by syndicates and is seen to have the “biggest impact on Philippine wildlife not only because of the scale of operation but also because most species targeted are on the endangered list.” Most experts believe that wildlife trafficking should be seen as a separate violation and should be punished more severely in the proposed amendments.
Other proposed amendments include expanding the list of illegal acts and establishing wildlife forensics laboratory in support of law enforcement.
Enacted in 2001, the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act was touted as a landmark legislation to regulate human activities that adversely affect Philippine wildlife. Since its enactment, however, illegal wildlife trade (IWT) has morphed into becoming a serious transnational crime involving multiple countries and actors. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ranks IWT’s profitability with that of trafficking drugs, arms, and human beings.
The value of IWT in the Philippines is estimated to be 50 billion pesos (roughly equivalent to 1 billion US dollars) annually. This includes revenues that should have been paid by illegal wildlife collectors and traders, the market value of resources involved, the ecological role wildlife plays, and the damage to its habitats.
The ADB/GEF-DENR Project on Combatting Environmental Organized Crime in the Philippines aims to address wildlife crime in the Philippines through policy, legal, regulatory reforms, capacity development, and reduction in demand for wildlife and wildlife products and derivatives. It assisted the conduct of consultations on the proposed revisions to the Wildlife Act. (ADB/GEF-DENR IWT Project)