May 25, 2021
The government is strengthening five seaports’ capability to seize illegally traded wildlife in light of unabated cases of wildlife smuggling that threatens biodiversity, consequently the nation’s economic resources.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-attached Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) has entered in a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to combat illegal wildlife trade (IWT) beginning with the country’s five major seaports.
The seaports in the south include the Lipata Port in Surigao del Norte, and Nasipit Port in Agusan del Norte. In Metro Manila, these are the ports of Manila — Manila North Harbor, Manila South Harbor , and Manila International Container Terminal.
DENR-BMB and PPA have started evaluating emergency responses to wildlife smuggling of these five seaports. Data showed that over the last 10 years (2010 to 2020), there have been 17 cases of wildlife confiscations in ports overseen by the PPA.
The MOA involves partnership to combat IWT in all of the 337 PPA-registered seaports nationwide.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), IWT is estimated to have a value of $23 billion per year. This makes it the fourth “largest transnational crime” in the world after narcotics, human trafficking, and arms.
With the assistance of the Global Environment Facility (GEF-6) through the project
“Combating Environmental Organized Crime in the Philippines,” DENR-BMB is implementing a three-year project on capability building against IWT. It is co-implemented with the Asian Development Bank.
“It aims to combat environmental organized crime in the Philippines through legal and
institutional reforms, capacity building in the full law enforcement chain, and reduction of demand for illegal wildlife and wildlife parts and derivatives,” DENR said.
Earlier assessment of the five seaports indicated flaws that have to be addressed in order to fight wildlife trafficking. The evaluation found out that there is an absence of a “single window environment for Electronic Clearance System in the ports.
There has also been a lack of intelligence and intelligence access on a regional scale that may help the early detection and interception of wildlife contrabands entering the port. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)
These problems also have to be addressed so that government will be able to stop or reduce cases of IWT:
1. Lack of risk profiling system complemented with wildlife crime risk indicators;
2. Absence of a K9 Unit able to detect wildlife, by-products, and derivatives
3. Absence of established standard operating procedures for inspection and seizure of wildlife and other illicit goods;
4. Absence of a protocol on post seizure investigation of cases;
5. ABsence of an information exchange system with local ports (for PPA) but under-maximized communication exchange with international institutions;
6. Absence of an established system to maintain employees’ integrity and professional standards and to deter corrupt practices; and,
7. Absence participation of industry operators, and need for greater cooperation and support from other supply chains.