In preparation for the upcoming 4th National Environmental Law Enforcement (NELE) Summit on July 14-16, 2021, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) held a pre-event on July 7, Wednesday, to highlight the detrimental extent of illegal wildlife trade in the country.

For the pre-event, DENR undersecretaries Benny D. Antiporda, Edilberto D. Leonardo, and Benito Antonio T. De Leon, together with Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Wildlife Resources Division Chief Atty. Theresa Tenazas tackled the different aspects and extent of the illegal wildlife trade in a media briefing.

Topics that were discussed included the challenges of the DENR’s wildlife enforcement officers, online illegal wildlife trade, salient points to make the Republic Act (RA) 9147 or the Wildlife Resource Conservation and Protection Act of 2001 more stringent, its context and threats, policy gaps, and its proposed revisions for amendment.

Commonly traded species including the illegal wildlife trading hot spots and strategies for combating illegal wildlife trade were also answered during the short event.

The DENR execs also explained the importance of the upcoming NELE Summit, saying that a workshop was conducted last March 11-12 to study the enforcement of green laws (forestry, flora and fauna), blue laws (water bodies such as estuaries, rivers, lakes, bays and oceans), brown laws (mining, land, and solid waste management), prosecution, and the roles of supporting agencies before the actual event.

"Hopefully, during this pre-event for the upcoming environmental law enforcement summit, we can make the Filipino people realize the magnitude of what we are lobbying and continuously advocating," DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said.

The NELE Summit aims to present the accomplishments of environmental law enforcement such as laws and policies, implementing guidelines, programs, and tools, and come up with a new NELE Action Plan for 2022-2027.

It also serves as a venue for ensuring continuous coordination and cooperation among the environmental law enforcement agencies and for giving recognition to partner agencies and institutions, as well as individuals.

Cimatu said that to sustain the momentum from last Wednesday’s (June 30) Senate hearing on proposed bills to strengthen RA 9147, the DENR "must continue to reverberate the drumbeat of calls to enact a law that will provide a more stringent legal framework to punish illegal wildlife traders."
"The sophistication of these illegal wildlife traders gives us the sense of urgency to clamor for the immediate legislation of the Senate bills concerning this matter," he said.

Currently, illegal wildlife trade in the Philippines is estimated to cost P50 billion a year, which includes the market value of wildlife and its resources, their ecological role and value, damage to habitats incurred during poaching, and loss in potential ecotourism revenues.

Over the last 10 years, DENR also confiscated P248-million worth of wildlife specimens.

Cimatu said the figures are "alarming" and could "invite more criminal minds and unscrupulous individuals, especially during this time of crisis—if they are left with merely a slap in the wrists."

Currently, a substitute House Bill titled "An Act Providing for the Conservation and Protection of Wildlife Resources and their Habitats, and Appropriating Funds Therefore, Repealing for this Purpose Republic Act No. 9147" or the "Wildlife Resources Conservation And Protection Act," sponsored by Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato and 15 other representatives, has passed the House Committee on Appropriations last May 26.

Senate Bills 2078 and 2079, authored by Senators Cynthia Villar and Juan Miguel Zubiri, respectively, were recently tackled in a public hearing presided by the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change, with the Committee on Finance and Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovations, and Futures Thinking. ###