By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Cynthia Villar on Wednesday presided over a virtual hearing by the Senate committee on environment, natural resources and climate change on measures seeking to provide stronger mechanisms against illegal wildlife trade in the country.
In a statement, Villar said that the committee which she chaired had started to deliberate Senate Bill No.2078 which she authored and Senate Bill No.2079, introduced by Senate Minority Leader June Miguel “Migz” Zubiri or the Revised Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, the subject of Villar’s privilege speech delivered last March.
Villar said the measures seek to provide stronger mechanisms to combat illegal wildlife trade in the country which, she said, continues to persist even during the pandemic, and many illegal traders remain unapprehended.
“The incidence of illegal wildlife trade has evolved and grown with violators becoming more equipped, organized and syndicated,” she said.
The lady senator said the trade and transport of wildlife species had become wild-scaled and transnational in nature.
“Studies suggest that globally, wildlife is the 4th largest illegal trade after drugs, arms and human trafficking,” she added.
Villar said wildlife authority regulators observe that the penalties pertaining to the conservation and protection of wildlife resources and their habitats under Republic Act 9147 have become outdated and “mere slaps on the wrist” when compared to the severity of wildlife trafficking.
“We have to give more teeth to the law to have enforcement authorities to apprehend violators,” Villar stressed.
Meanwhile, Zubiri said that it’s high time to revised the Wildlife Act particularly ang proposed amendments on Republic Act (RA) No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.
He urges his colleagues and other stakeholders to support the bills that will further strengthen and improve RA 9147 particularly on the imposition of stronger, more specific penalties to enhance its deterrent effect and remove legal loopholes exploited by illegal wildlife collectors and traders.
Zubiri, the principal author of RA 9147, noted that the wildlife act is ripe for revision based on the collective experience of government regulators, law enforcement agencies, volunteers, non-government organizations, scientists and researchers, conservationists, local government units, and legitimate wildlife breeders, traders and hobbyists.
“It’s high time that the wildlife act be updated to comply or be consistent with the Philippine treaty obligations concerning wildlife under multilateral agreements such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS),” Zubiri said. (ai/mtvn)