By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been urged to run after illegal wildlife traders in the country.
Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato, a member of the House Committee on Ecology, asked DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu to intensify the campaign against wildlife trafficking.
She made the call after the Philippine National Police (PNP) recovered 70 dead marine turtles, locally called pawikan, in the northern Palawan town of Dumaran, last week.
Citing news reports, she expressed concern that the turtles were discovered in a large motorboat off the shore of Barangay Bacao.
Two individuals identified only as Rico Gonzales and Kim Aristotiles from Taytay have been slapped with charges for violation of the Wildlife Act.
“I commend the PNP for this successful operation. We need to intensify the campaign against wildlife trafficking and go after unscrupulous individuals who mercilessly hunt our already threatened wildlife,” Sato said.
She said Cimatu should use his military expertise and experience as a former AFP chief of staff to combat the rampant illegal wildlife trade.
“I appeal to Secretary Cimatu to do something to protect our precious wildlife, too. Prevention is always better than cure. We can save them from wildlife trafficking,” she said.
She laments that wildlife trafficking is being facilitated, if not perpetrated by locals themselves.
“We should work doubly hard to protect our biodiversity against all forms of environmental terrorism that undermine our natural wealth – including our already endangered and threatened wildlife before they become extinct,” Sato said.
“Illegal wildlife trafficking is a global phenomenon threatening biodiversity and the Philippines has its share of responsibility to various international treaties,” she pointed out.
She even asked the public to get involved in the arrest of wildlife traffickers who are raking huge profit at the expense of the country’s endangered and threatened wildlife.
“The Philippines is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries in the world but at the same time, it is also one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots due to the rapid rate of biodiversity loss,” Sato said.
Sato is pushing for the passage of a bill seeking to expand the coverage of National Integrated Protected Areas System or the E-NIPAS Act.
Under the consolidated E-NIPAS bill, 97 Protected Areas will be included in the list of Protected Areas and that stiffer penalty and higher fines shall be slapped against violators, including wildlife traffickers.
There are 240 Protected Areas in the Philippines but only 13 are backed by law.