On March 3, 2021, the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-BMB) led the annual celebration of the 8th World Wildlife Day with the theme “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet” emphasizing the relationship between our forests and woodlands, its manifold services and benefits bestowed upon us.
The celebration of this global event is a medium to honor and show our appreciation to forty-three (43) officials/personnel from National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Philippine National Police (PNP) for their valuable contributions to wildlife law enforcement from February to December 2020. In the same vein, the Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade (POGI), a composite team of wildlife enforcers from various agencies was recently honored during the Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards. The prestigious award was conferred upon by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to these valiant men and women.
In her welcome remarks, Amelita DJ. Ortiz, Assistant Director of the DENR-BMB, emphasized the importance of forest and its relationship with livelihoods. “We shall continue engaging with forest and coastal communities in combating illegal wildlife trade, including providing them with the requisite knowledge, skills, and tools to apprehend poachers and traders who take advantage of the situation we see ourselves in now,” she said.
On the other hand, Atty. Ernesto D. Adobo, Jr., Undersecretary for Legal, Administration, Human Resources and Legislative Affairs and Chair, Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade (POGI) in behalf of Roy A. Cimatu, DENR-Secretary imparted that “complexities in life have pushed environmental protection in the back of our minds, the effects are not necessarily felt now but would be devastating in the future.” He added that “Our forests are fragile resources and that to maintain its integrity, we have to take a step forward by collaborating with enforcement agencies and adapting models in managing our ecosystems” and that “We need to establish for efficient investigation and prosecution of wildlife cases.” He continued by saying “it is only with a renewed vigor and determination that we will see our goals come into fruition”.
Jim O. Sampulna, Undersecretary for Enforcement, Mining, and Muslim Affairs, also joined the WWD celebration and shared his thoughts, and to quote “We honor the dedication and commitment of our wildlife front-liners who are at the forefront of apprehending violators and cracking down on syndicates, some of them international in nature, to protect our planet. Sila po ang ating mga bayani”.
The World Wildlife Day in the Philippines was considered a well-attended celebration as BMB was lucky to have the support and presence of two of our champions of environment protection. On this occasion, Senator Cynthia Villar graced and blessed this important event by participating online and giving her message of support. Senator Villar underscored the “importance of taking action on the protection of our biological diversity because any damage or loss will cost too much for a country such as ours”. She further asserted that “There is so much at stake and we become vulnerable to the adverse side effects if we do not commit to taking care of our environment”. Thus, “a stronger law and an even stronger enforcement of it is crucial.”
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri then reminded each one of us that “We share this planet with our precious wildlife.” We lose these resources due to the wanton destruction of their forest habitats and the rising demand for illegally traded wildlife. He emphatically expressed that it is about creating a future that takes every living creature into account.”
Further, in relation to our year’s theme, Ricardo L. Calderon, Executive Director of Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO), “clearly emphasized the need to protect our forests resources as the very important habitat of our wildlife resources (plants and animals) that will sustain our people and our planet in the middle of climate crisis and COVID 19 pandemic.” He added the importance of the relationship between human and nature and the need to stop the degradation and fragmentation of forest.
All speakers were in unison in conveying their calls to ensure the sustainability of our forest resources and the continued conservation and protection of our wildlife. Moreover, it provided our honorable lawmakers an opportunity to announce the filing of an amendatory bill for RA 9147 otherwise known as “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001”. Preceding the day of the celebration, Senators Villar and Zubiri filed two separate bills, Senate Bill 2078 and 2079 to amend the RA 9147. These served as another milestone in the history of the country’s wildlife legislation as it sought to strengthen the wildlife conservation and protection mechanism in the country. These bills are the long-awaited opportunities to provide stiffer penalties and updated prohibitions for a 20-year-old law on wildlife resources and conservation.
Furthermore, the collaborations of DENR-BMB with various partners provided favorable outcomes in the pursuit of illegal activities with the launching of the following tools essential to curb wildlife crimes. These include: a) The soft launch of eLearning Modules for Wildlife Law Enforcement and Go-Live of eCITES PH, the automation of CITES permit procedures and electronic information exchange for improved control of international trade in endangered species (eCITES) with the help and support of DENR-ADB/GEF IWT Combating Organized Environmental Crimes in the Philippines (IWT Project); b) Launching of Wildlife Philippines Podcast, a learning aid for teachers and students in social and environmental sciences, which was officially launched in Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts sponsored by USAID-Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Project 3; c) Development of the Rapid Reference Guide (RRG) developed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) for the use of investigators and prosecutors in locating relevant legislation in investigating wildlife crimes along with EliTusk mobile application for online rapid wildlife enforcement references; and, d) Development of BRAIN system (Biodiversity Resource Access Information Network System) for the use of Palawan’s environmental regulatory permits and environmental defenders for enforcement operations in partnership between Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and United States Agency International Development (USAID).
The partnership of the DENR-BMB with ADB/GEF IWT Project and USDOI-PBC3, did not dampen the spirits of the group’s initiatives in continuing to spread awareness on the protection and conservation of wildlife through a contest in the arts (poster making), music (jingle making), and photography. The awarding for this year’s winners of the said contests was via livestream through BMB’s Facebook Page.
Through the yearly celebrations of the World Wildlife Day, we convey our messages of hope and a renewed enthusiasm that wildlife and people can continue to live harmoniously, and that we share this world with our precious wildlife. Let us then be the voice of reason who shall speak in behalf of these helpless creatures. Everyone has a role in wildlife conservation, thus, let us do our part and conserve our wildlife!