Green group calls for changes to PH’s wildlife protection law

FILE PHOTO: A wildlife watch group said 4,723 Philippine forest turtles were seized between 2004 and 2018, the majority of which came from Taytay, Palawan, which has been identified as an “exit point” for traders illegal wildlife. Photo by Emerson Sy / TRAFIC

MANILA, Philippines – An environmental group on Thursday called for immediate passage of proposed amendments to Republic Law 9147 or the 2001 Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act.

Tanggol Kalikasan executive director Ma. Ronely Bisquera-Sheen said it was high time to strengthen the 20-year-old law to tackle the “increasingly sophisticated and organized” operations of the illegal wildlife trade.

“We call on the 18th Congress to use its power to pass this law if necessary. It will be a precious legacy that will protect not only our wildlife resources, but also the lives and livelihoods of generations of Filipinos, ”Bisquera-Sheen said in a statement.

“Crime syndicates exploit legal loopholes, low fines and penalties, digital technology and limited enforcement capacity. RA 9147 must be changed urgently. Our law must adapt to the changing landscape of wildlife crime and its enforcement, ”she added.

According to Tanggol Kalikasan, the penalties provided for by the law in force do not correspond to the seriousness of the offenses, and therefore do not serve as a deterrent. The group noted that most of the penalties provided by law are jail terms of less than six years and that first-time offenders typically seek probation to avoid detention and fines.

For example, foreign nationals were caught with dried seahorses worth 1.7 million pesos considered endangered, but ultimately only paid a fine of 15,000 pesos, said the group.

Senate Bills 2078 and 2079, introduced by Senator Cynthia Villar and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri respectively, aim to impose stricter sanctions and enforcement capacity, as well as remove legal loopholes exploited by illegal wildlife traders.

A counterpart House Bill 9833 was approved in August at third and final reading.

Tanggol Kalikasan has said that under the bills, penalties for trading, possessing and transporting wildlife can be up to eight years in prison and up to £ 1million in fines. , while penalties for killing or destroying wild animals can be up to 12 years imprisonment or fines of up to 2 million pesos.

Citing the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the environmental group said the estimated value of illegal wildlife trade in the country is 50 billion pesos per year, including the market value of wildlife and its resources, their ecological role and value, habitat damage and loss. in the potential income from ecotourism.

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Betty T. Simpson

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