THE AMERICAN government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has trained 27 representatives from Philippine government agencies in environmental law enforcement, including  investigation skills on coral reef crimes such as oil spills and coastal pollution.

“The rich bounty that the Philippines is blessed with comes with a responsibility of conserving these resources in a way that is sustainable and regenerative,” USAID Acting Environment Office Director John Piggot said in a statement released on Tuesday by the US Embassy in Manila.

“We hope that this activity will lead to increased cooperation among enforcement agencies on coral reef-related cases, enhancement of existing local training modules on reef protection, and development of local policy and protocols on coral reef-related investigations,” he added.

The training — implemented under the USAID’s Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Oceans, and Landscapes project — revolved around coral reef crime scene investigation, marine wildlife crime forensics, oil spills, and marine and coastal pollution.

Participants included members of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

They attended lectures delivered by international experts and gained practical experience through diving sessions that simulated responses to environmental crime scenarios.

“The training supports the Philippines’ national action plan for addressing wildlife crimes and its goals of strengthening law enforcement to conserve threatened species and reduce biodiversity threats,” the embassy said.

Illegal fishing practices accounted for about 40% of fish caught in the Philippines in 2019, according to a joint report by USAID and BFAR. This amounts to roughly P62 billion annually. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan