US: Philippines involved in wildlife trafficking

Jose Katigbak - The Philippine Star
US: Philippines involved in wildlife trafficking
A report on Wednesday said the Philippines was among 26 “focus countries” involved in wildlife trafficking that threatened long-standing conservation efforts and human health.

WASHINGTON – The US State Department has identified the Philippines as a major source, transit point or consumer of wildlife trafficking products or their derivatives.

A report on Wednesday said the Philippines was among 26 “focus countries” involved in wildlife trafficking that threatened long-standing conservation efforts and human health.

It was the second annual report submitted to Congress as required by the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016 which is aimed at dismantling organized crime syndicates engaged in wildlife trafficking.

The report said identification as a focus country was neither a positive nor a negative designation.

Many of the counties in the list have taken significant steps to combat wildlife trafficking, including in partnership with the US.  

Of the 26 countries listed, eight – Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Three of the 26 focus countries – Laos, Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar – were deemed countries of concern whose governments have actively engaged in or knowingly profited from the trafficking of endangered or threatened species.

‘Forests critical in Phl economy’

With nearly 75 percent of its natural forests lost during the last century, the Philippines’ remaining seven million hectares of forest play a critical role in the country’s economy, US Ambassador Sung Kim said yesterday.

“About one in three Filipinos depend on natural resources, including forests, for their livelihoods. Forests also benefit the entire country by providing energy, protecting communities from floods and improving air quality,” Kim said at the completion ceremony of the US Agency for International Development (USAID)’s multi-year initiative with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in strengthening the country’s forest and biodiversity conservation.

Kim, USAID mission director Lawrence Hardy and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu led the event together with local government partners from around the country.

Kim lauded the environmental champions, saying they have worked tirelessly to preserve the Philippines’ forests and biodiversity.

“It is because of your unwavering commitment that future generations will be able to enjoy the benefits of these valuable resources,” he said.

The USAID formed a partnership with the DENR to protect Philippine forests.

“Today’s event celebrates the many milestones that we have achieved together through the B+WISER project,” Kim said.

The USAID has been working with the DENR, local governments, the private sector and civil society to safeguard this crucial natural resource.

The envoy said Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System, or Lawin, has revolutionized forest and biodiversity conservation in the Philippines.

This technology, he said, helped modernize how forest rangers conduct their patrols and report threats. The data generated by Lawin now helps the DENR make evidence-based decisions to protect the country’s forests and biodiversity.

“Equipping patrollers and decision-makers with these tools and training has helped improve the management of over 90 percent of forests in the Philippines,” Kim said.

“Reforestation and forest conservation efforts have helped reduce 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of removing more than two million cars off the streets,” he added.

The DENR has adopted Lawin as part of its national forest protection strategy and has also tripled its protection budget to P1 billion this year, making more resources available to further intensify forest conservation.– With Pia Lee-Brago

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