One hundred eighty staff members from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and law enforcement agencies graduated from the Basic Wildlife Law Enforcement (BWLE) training held virtually in two batches: one for Caraga and Davao Regions from 10 July 2020 to 10 August 2020, and the other for Central Visayas (Negros Oriental and Siquijor) from 13 August to 28 August 2020.
The number of graduates comprised 119 from DENR and 61 from partner regulatory and enforcement agencies. These included the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), Bureau of Animal industry (BAI), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and Bureau of Customs (BOC).
Consisting of topics in substantive laws relevant to wildlife, procedural laws, as well as technical and practical skills in wildlife handling, investigation, surveillance, apprehension, seizure, and so on, the conduct of the virtual training was aimed at equipping the participants with sufficient knowledge and appropriate skills to respond to rising cases of illegal wildlife trade (IWT) in the country.
Executive Director Hadja Didaw Brahim of DENR Region XIII said that the Philippines, a megadiverse country, faced an unprecedented and accelerating rate of habitat destruction and species loss due to overexploitation and wildlife trafficking. She recognized the value of the training to develop the skills of regulatory and enforcement agencies tasked to combat these crimes.
Executive Director Paquito Melicor, Jr. of DENR Region VII emphasized the need for increased sharing of information among government agencies. He lauded the training not only for developing the skills of the participants but also for providing a platform for collaboration and teamwork across agencies.
Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and concurrent Director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Ricardo L. Calderon congratulated all the graduates and thanked them for their active participation in the training. He stated that Caraga and Region XI were hotspots of wildlife trafficking because they connected directly to the traffic route of species coming from Indonesia. He also emphasized the critical role of wildlife law enforcement in combating these transnational crimes, as well as in preventing future pandemics brought about by the rise of zoonotic diseases.
The training sessions were originally set to be delivered face-to-face between March and April this year. Due to community quarantine restrictions on travel and social gathering, however, the training team, led by Tanggol Kalikasan and in consultation with BMB, DENR regional offices, and Asian Development Bank (ADB), had decided to conduct online trainings that were 1.5 to 3.5 hours-long per day instead.
Participants in areas with poor internet connection were given the option to attend the trainings at the nearest Community or Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (C/P ENRO).
Additional online BWLE trainings have been planned for the rest of Region VII (Cebu and Bohol) and National Capital Region.
The project on Combating Environmental Organized Crime in the Philippines designed and implemented the training. A three-year project, it is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF)-6, executed by BMB, and implemented by ADB. The project aims to combat environmental organized crime in the Philippines through legal and institutional reforms, capacity building in the full law enforcement chain, and reduction of demand for illegal wildlife and wildlife parts and derivatives. (IWT Project/ Garie A. Rigor, Jr.)