DENR mulls forming task force to enforce wildlife protection laws

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This undated handout photo released on July 7, 2017 by Dumaran Municipal Police Station (MPS) shows policemen and volunteers arranging seized dead hawksbill marine turtles in Dumaran town, Palawan province, southwest of Manila. — AFP/DUMARAN-MPS

The Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR) is mulling over the formation of a separate bureau to strictly enforce wildlife and environmental laws as ordered by Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.

DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim said while they develop the policies on environmental laws, these are implemented by regional offices and other enforcement agencies such as the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coast Guard.

“[The DENR chief] now has an instruction to set up a bureau that will focus mainly on enforcement against environmental crimes which includes wildlife. So, among the challenges, on wildlife enforcement is also following the apprehension, that there should be charges as well. Cases are filed and they (violators) are prosecuted.”

Ms. Lim said that, at present, whenever the government manages to confiscate illegally-traded animals, these are sometimes returned to the traders due to lack of proper law implementation or legal knowledge. This is despite the country having special prosecutors and courts that hold trials on environment-related crimes.

Aside from enforcement, Ms. Lim said that the DENR-BMB will also focus on providing awareness and alternative livelihood to the communities that had been exposed to illegal wildlife trade.

“[We should] give these violators different enterprises so that they have other than just unsustainable collection, we can probably teach them how to sustainably utilize our wildlife resources,” Ms. Lim said.

“Or, if there are other wild life resources that can be introduced in the area that can help the communities, that can veer them away from illegal collection. That’s another activity, another program that we are undertaking right now.” — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato