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US trains DENR, BFAR in underwater crime scene investigation, law enforcement

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US trains DENR, BFAR in underwater crime scene investigation, law enforcement
Photo from US Embassy shows training participants simulating underwater crime scene investigation by locating, identifying, documenting, and collecting pieces of evidence.
US Embassy in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — The United States trained government partners in the Philippines in investigating underwater crime scene and enforcing laws, its embassy in Manila said Tuesday.

Twenty-seven representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources participated in the Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Oceans, and Landscapes (SIBOL) project of the US Agency for International Development.

The training focused on environmental law enforcement issues like coral reef crime scence investigation, marine wildlife crime forensics, oil spills, and marine and coastal pollution.

According to the US Embassy, the training supports the country’s national action plan for addressing wildlife crimes and its goals of strengthening law enforcement to conserve threatened species and reduce biodiversity threats.

“The rich bounty that the Philippines is blessed with comes with a responsibility of conserving these resources in a way that is sustainable and regenerative,” USAID Acting Environment Office Director Dr. John Piggot said.

“We hope that this activity will lead to increased cooperation among enforcement agencies on coral reef-related cases, enhancement of existing local training modules on reef protection, and development of local policy and protocols on coral reef-related investigations,” he added.

The Philippines is located at the apex of the Coral Triangle, which is home to 76% of the world’s coral species. However, climate change and human activities such as destructive fishing, coastal development, and pollution have taken a heavy toll on the country’s coral reefs.

According to a joint report by USAID and BFAR published last year, illegal fishing comprised 27% to 40% of fish caught in the Philippines in 2019, which amounts to roughly P62 billion annually.

The report also found that at least 30,000 of municipal vessels remain unregistered, and commercial fishers do not report up to 422,000 metric tons of fish each year. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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