Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga called on lawmakers to prioritize the passage of proposed measures to strengthen Republic Act (RA) 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

“It is high time to address the threats to biodiversity such as the proliferation of invasive alien species, destruction of natural habitats, unsustainable utilization of resources, illegal wildlife trade and environmental pollution. It is also time to consider in our plans and policies the sustainability and life time value of our country’s wildlife resources along with the ecosystem services that they yield not only to the nation but to the overall health of our planet,” Loyzaga said.

RA 9147 provides the necessary environmental policy enabling the government to comprehensively manage and conserve the wildlife resources of the country.

In line with this, Loyzaga proposed ten points to amend the wildlife law in penalizing the crime of wildlife trafficking as a separate offense.

These points include considering wildlife crime as a transnational offense, increasing fines and penalties for wildlife violations, expanding the role of other national government agencies and local government units to have more teeth in enforcing the wildlife law, and mandating government agencies to control and manage invasive alien species, among others.

“Indeed, sophisticated crimes need a sophisticated, robust, and science-based counter approach. Strengthening RA 9147 is a necessary step to further protect and conserve the country’s wildlife resources and their habitats,” Loyzaga said.

According to Loyzaga, the support of the lawmakers in the amendment of RA 9147 is indispensable to advance our efforts and initiatives to sustainably manage our wildlife resources.

She added that the amendment of the wildlife law is also in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Targets 13, 14, and 15 (Climate Action, Life Below Water and Life on Land) that calls for urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats and halt the loss of biodiversity.

Senators Cynthia Villar and Jinggoy Estrada filed Senate Bill Nos. 125 and 467, respectively, to give a more robust approach to the existing wildlife law and ensure that violators will not go unpunished.

Director Natividad Y. Bernardino of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), meanwhile, expressed her optimism that “the amendment for RA 9147 is once again considered and refiled at the 19th Congress.”

“With this legislation, the provisions of RA 9147 will be more stringent on the target perpetrators such as organized syndicates and will provide a wider coverage to encompass even transnational crimes,” Bernardino said.

Bernardino said the move to strengthen RA 9147 comes in a very opportune time during the COVID-19 pandemic, since the illegal wildlife trade is identified as one of the pathways of zoonotic diseases transmission. ###