Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has cited the inter-agency task force Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife or POGI for winning the prestigious Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards given by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Cimatu said the award is “a testimony of the continuing commitment of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on upholding its mandate of protecting, conserving, and managing the environment and natural resources for the present and future generations.”

"This serves as another feather on the cap of the agency on environmental law enforcement," the DENR chief said.

The POGI, chaired by Undersecretary Atty. Ernesto D. Adobo. Jr., is a composite team of wildlife enforcers from various agencies, including DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Bureau of Customs, and DENR-National Capital Region—was recognized during the 5th Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards under Impact category on Feb. 17, 2021.

The award is given to individuals and/or government organizations or teams that demonstrate excellence and outstanding leadership in enforcement of national laws to combat transboundary environmental crime.

This year, UNEP awarded those who demonstrated excellence and leadership in one or more of the following categories: collaboration; impact; innovation; integrity; and gender leadership.

Task Force POGI was one of the eight winners mainly for its excellent collaboration and coordination framework among different enforcement agencies, thus enhancing the impact of operations against illegal trade in wildlife.

During the nomination period from June 2019 to May 2020, the task force has successfully apprehended high profile traffickers and confiscated illegally trafficked goods.

The key highlight was in August 2019 when the task force arrested Sharon Jonjon Lim, a notorious online wildlife trader who had been elusive for about five years, and recovered from him 13 rare animals worth around US$5,000 or around Php250,000.

Adobo, who is the DENR Undersecretary for Legal, Administration, Human Resources and Legislative Affairs, received the award in a virtual ceremony.

"We are humbled and deeply grateful that our collective efforts and initiatives in combating environmental crimes, particularly crimes against wildlife, are recognized by no less than international experts from the United Nations and its partner agencies," Adobo said in his acceptance message.

"Rest assured that POGI will continue to work against illegal wildlife trade within the country, and we remain steadfast in our commitment as member of the ASEAN Wildlife Working Group, and to our international partners all engaged in combatting wildlife trafficking," he added.

This year's Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards, with the theme "Fighting transboundary environmental crime," was also in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, International Criminal Police Organization, and World Customs Organization. #