Boost wildlife conservation and protection– Sen. Villar

Boost wildlife conservation and protection– Sen. Villar

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — To strengthen the two-decades-old Wildlife Act to address the growing scale and sophistication of wildlife crimes, Senator Cynthia A. Villar sought a Revised Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection.

Villar, chairperson of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, sponsored Senate Bill No. 2465 or “An Act Strengthening the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Mechanism in the Philippines, Amending for this Purpose Republic Act No. 9147, Otherwise Known as the ‘Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act’.

“Strengthening wildlife protection is crucial to the Philippines, which is considered as one of the world’s 17 megadiverse or biodiversity-rich countries, which collectively hosts two-thirds of the Earth’s biodiversity and contain about 70 to 80 percent of the world’s plant and animal species,” stressed Villar in sponsoring the bill.

She related that the Philippines harbors one of the highest concentrations of unique wildlife species in the world.

“Yet, it is also a biodiversity hotspot with high levels of threats from habitat loss, invasive alien species (IAS), climate change, pollution, and overexploitation,” also said the senator.

“Thus, this calls for us to take action on the protection of our wildlife because any damage or loss will cost too much for us,” she added.

The senator, a known environment advocate, also cited the need to develop a more stringent legal framework, improve enforcement mechanisms, and strengthen inter-agency cooperation against illegal wildlife trade.

“We need to give more “teeth” so to speak to existing policies and laws to help enforcement authorities also to apprehend violators. And that’s what Senate Bill 2465 seeks to provide — to fortify the mechanisms in place to afford better protection to our wildlife resources,” she emphasized.

According to Villar, there is an evolution of wildlife crimes due to globalization. She said open borders and better transport infrastructure also permitted access of illegal wildlife trade syndicates to previously remote areas, while the internet gave unprecedented access to new markets.

Villar said her proposed Revised Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection bill will provide the timely or relevant amendments to RA 9147. These include the following, among others:

• It addresses the crime of “wildlife trafficking” by providing its definition and commensurate penalties, and other strategies to deter the devious schemes of wildlife syndicates that are large-scale and transnational;

• It includes control and management mechanism for invasive alien species, that threatens the survival of our local plants and animals;

• It provides guidelines on the collection, possession, and transport of wildlife, its by-products and derivatives;

• It recognizes the jurisdiction of Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and the Bangsamoro Government (BMG) over wildlife species in their respective territories.

• The DENR, DA, PCSD (Palawan Council for Sustainable Development), and the Bangsamoro Government, as applicable, are given the power to exercise administrative adjudication in cases of violations and may cause the confiscation, forfeiture and final disposition of wildlife, its by-products and derivatives, as well as tools and conveyances;

• It provides an increase in the penalties (imprisonment and/or fines) for illegal acts to serve as a deterrent for the commission of wildlife crimes; and

• Provisions on the applicability of the disputable presumption that wildlife offenses have been committed.

“We owe it to the future generation to conserve and protect our wildlife resources. It is part of our duty to leave this world better than we found it. Let us make sure that the future generations will still actually encounter and co-exist with an abundance of plants and animals, and not just see them in old pictures, further stated the senator. (ai/mtvn)

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