Philippines wins Global Wildlife Programme award as it combats illegal wildlife trade, fights Covid 19 traced to wildlife disease transmission

December 14, 2021

The Philippines has recently won the 2021 Knowledge Market “Most Useful Project Resources” award at the recently concluded Global Wildlife Programme (GWP) Annual Conference held virtually last November 30-December 2, 2021.

   The country bested 36 projects in 31 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

   The award was part of a series of mini-competitions that included “Best Knowledge Market Pitch”, “Best Overall Knowledge Share/Need”, “Most Useful Project Resources”, and “Best HowSpace Collaboration.” Team Philippines was also nominated in the “Best Knowledge Market Pitch” category.

   As the prize, the GWP Team will co-design a webinar with Team Philippines.

   With the theme Working Together for Wildlife Conservation, the 2021 GWP Annual Conference focused on successfully collaborating, engaging, and empowering stakeholders to support wildlife conservation and sustainable local livelihoods.

   The Team Philippines’  Knowledge Products and videos may be viewed at Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Biodiversity Management Bureau’s YouTube Channel.

   The Philippines has been aggressively disseminating information on wildlife conservation considering its huge impact in human lives, surprisingly on human health.

   In “Illegal Trade:  A Conduit Through Which Coronavirus Transmitted to Human, Atty Theresa M. Tenazas said pandemics have clearly shown “links to virus reservoir in wildlife populations.”

   “The SARS outbreak in 2002, which infected more than 8,000 people and resulted in 774 deaths in 37 countries, came from a novel betacoronavirus sourced from bats through masked palm civets as the intermediate host before reaching humans,” said Tenazas.

   Tenazas is Wildlife Resources chief of DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB).

   “The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak in 2012, which infected 2,494 and cost 858 human lives, also came from another coronavirus passing though dromedary camels to humans,” she said.

   Even African Swine Fever (ASF) which has caused huge economic losses to Philippines and many Asian countries is attributed to wild African suids.

   Tenazas noted that the wildlife of the Philippines includes a significant number of endemic animal and plant species. Sixty-seven percent of the 52,177 species in the country are endemic and 418 are listed as threatened by the Rest List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources as of year 2000.

   Hunting for international trade, massive land conversion and climate change have all been wreaking havoc on these wildlife population.

   Today, wildlife trafficking is a transnational organized crime. It is the “fourth largest transnational criminal activity in the world next to drugs trafficking, human trafficking and counterfeit goods trafficking”.

   Disease transmission through animals have long been documented in the Philippines.

  Tenazas noted that evidence of Reston ebolavirus (RESTV) infection was found in domestic pigs and pig workers in the Philippines in 2008-2009.  And bats were suspected to be the possible reservoir of RESTV.

   DENR-BMB is now advocating for stricter penalties for illegal wildlife trade through proposed amendments to Republic Act 9147 or the “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.”

   It has so much to protect as Philippines is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries in the world with its unique endemic flora and fauna species.

   DENR-BMB has been continuously holding workshops as part of controlling illegal wildlife trade (IWT).  It is training people on  IWT expertise including Online Trade Investigation, Financial Investigation on Wildlife Crimes Advance Prosecutor and Enforcement Workshop.     

    In these efforts, it has partnerships with USAID Protect Wildlife Project,  BMB-ADB/GEF (Asian Development Bank-Global Environment Facility) IWT Project and the United States Department of Justice Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, &Training Counter Wildlife Trafficking.

Automation of permits to trade endangered flora and fauna introduced

December 10, 2021

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has automated permit issuance for the trading of flora and fauna to enhance global trade transparency in a long term aim to prevent illegal trade and sustainably develop biodiversity.

   In compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Philippines has started issuing permits for the trading of flora and fauna electronically.  It will be through the eCITESPH.com.

   So that information can be accessible anywhere  thereby facilitating trade, the electronic permitting system will be integrated into the Philippines’ national single window system.

   As such,  international trade of threatened animal and plant will easily be monitored and controlled.

   “The system will improve control of international trade in endangered species.  Automation of CITES processes will help enforce regulations, increase transparency, and facilitate processing and electronic data exchange with customs and other agencies,”  according to Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Assistant Director Amelita Ortiz.

   “Electronic information exchange will reduce opportunities for corruption and the use of fraudulent documents in the trading of endangered species,” she said.

   The DENR has been tapping information technology to enhance capability building to produce experts in wildlife trade. 

35,000 species protected under CITES

   Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the addition of two online learning platforms “enables the DENR to uphold its mandate of educating the people about the country’s wildlife resources despite the prevailing COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) pandemic.”

   BMB has introduced the eTraining Course on Basic Wildlife Law Enforcement (BWLE) and the Wildlife Philippines Podcast. 

   This project is  under the DENR-Asian Development Bank/ Global Environment Facility Project on Combating Environmental Organized Crime in the Philippines.  

   The project  also involves aid from the United States Department of the Interior International Technical Assistance Program-Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Project 3.

Controlversial ivory trade. Credit– Deutsche Welle

   Modules under this e-learning project includes Wildlife Law Enforcement in the Philippines; Species Commonly involved in Wildlife Crimes; Substantive Laws on Wildlife Resources Protection; Other Crimes against Wildlife; Roles and Responsibilities of Government Agencies in Wildlife Law Enforcement; and Procedural Laws on Wildlife Resources Protection.

   The BWLE training course can be accessed at https:// elearn.adb.org

   More than  38,700 species including  5,900 species of animals and 32,800 species of plants are protected under the CITES, an international treaty signed by Philippines.  It was entered into force in 1975.  Each species is under any of three appendices depending on the degree of of protection they need.

   Each year, the BMB issues more than 1,500 permits on a tedious manual basis.

   But the new automated permit issuance system eases burden of manual work. This is aligned with Republic Act 11032 of 2018 or “Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery.” (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Private sector pressed government to plow in investments into agriculture as private enterprises put in 95% of investments

December 6, 2021

The private sector has pressed government to plow in investments into agriculture sector that drives economic development even as private enterprises pour in the bulk of 95% of investments in agriculture while government only contributes 5% to farm output.

   The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) has asked presidential candidates, given their election, to put agriculture sector as a priority investment venue given its significant contribution to the economy.

    That along with its potential to be a springboard for agro-industrial development as agriculture is the natural resource origin of food and beverage and many manufacturing industries.

   PCAFI just held Monday its “Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” with presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as as a way to engage potential future leaders to adopt PCAFI’s 12-point recommendation.

   “The private sector contributes 95% of the investment in the agriculture sector.  It should be provided with the right environment for people to invest in it. Government contribution to the total agricultural output is less than 5% yearly,” according to PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto.

   Also proposing recommendations through the online forum are Alyansa Agrikultura Convenor Ernesto Ordonez and Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Leonardo Q. Montemayor.

   After long years of ignoring the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 (AFMA-Republic Act 8435), government should now implement it. 

   The AFMA-mandated Naitonal Information Data System (NIDS) should be put up to provide an accurate data on import, export, demand, supply, and prices of agricultural commodities. Such data is not provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

   Creation of the NIDS is critical so that excessive importation of agricultural goods that has been slowly killing the agriculture sector can only be resolved given accurate data.     

   ”Investors and food producers will have an informed business decisions (given this data),” said Fausto.

   Eighty Five percent of the country’s agricultural land is planted with just four crops–rice, corn, banana and coconut.

   Income from these crops traditionally planted on 1 to 2 hectares of land cannot adequately feed a family of five members.

   “Our small farmers can earn more by planting other crops (through intercropping) with greater value like vegetables, legumes, fruits and even ornamentals in rotation with rice and corn. Farm produce can be further processed into various products far more valuable than the raw form and create additional employment in the process,” he said.

    Importation has become the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) long prevailing system in ensuring food security, hurting many Filipino farmers.  Thus, PCAFI has asked for the implementation of laws to curb importation that only benefit importers and traders.  

   The Safeguard Measures Act (SMA– Section 13, RA 8800) indicated that “in reaching a positive determination that the increase in the importation of the (imported) product is causing serious injury or threat  directly to competitive (local) products,” an increase in duty on the imported product may be imposed.

   The SMA also provides that if importation poses threat on the local industry, a decrease in the quota (minimum access volume or MAV) on the product may be implemented.  MAV is an importation program that carries lower tariff rate.

   “The initiation of international negotiations to address the underlying cause of the increase of imports of the product, to alleviate the injury or threat thereof to the domestic industry (should be done),” according to the PCAFI position paper.

   RA 8751 is the law that sanctions imposition of countervailing duties on imported subsidized products “in order to protect domestic industries from unfair trade competition.”

   Whenever any product is “granted directly or indirectly by the government in the country of origin” any kind of subsidy upon its production, and importation of such product causes material injury to a domestic industry, countervailing duties must be imposed.

   Ra 8752 also provides that anti-dumping duty may be imposed whenever any imported product has a price less than its “normal value” and causes threat to a domestic industry.

   Dr. Emil Q. Javier, national scientist and chairman of the Coalition for Agricultural Modernization of the Philippines (CAMP) also filed with presidential candidates the following recommendations:

1. Farm consolidation to attain economies of scale

   Prospective solutions may be to a) promote farm leasing by small unproductive farmers to more progressive farmers or to corporations; b) promote contract farming as a business model between small growers and  integrators; c) support rural cooperatives, irrigators associations ( IAs), and agrarian beneficiaries organizations ( ARBOs). 

   The government may also consider raising limit to farm holdings under agrarian reform from 5 to 20 hectares.  It should consider creating a Bureau of Agro-industrial Cooperatives under the DA.

2. Promotion of value-adding and processing to increase farmer incomes , create more jobs and expand exports

   This will generate more margins derived from the processing, marketing and distribution stages of the  value chain.  Farmers directly involved mainly in farm production stage face risks that are highest  while margins are often the least.

3. More efforts to expand access of small farmers to timely and affordable credit.

   “The government should consider creating a Land Bank subsidiary exclusively dedicated to small farmer lending.  It should also improve operations and raise capital of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp.,” said Javier.

4. Creation of a separate Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources

   “Fisherfolk and coastal communities are the poorest among  Filipinos.  Fisheries and marine resources are severely underfunded and largely under-utilized.  Fisheries tend to be neglected and crowded out by crops and livestock in DA.”

5. Reform of rural extension

   “Agricultural extension should be the task of local government units (LGUs) to bring extension services closer to the people,” Javier said.

   This LGU function has weakened for lack of direction, manpower, operating funds and expertise in the poor third to the sixth class municipalities where most of agriculture production is located.

   Therefore, it is better to locate the locus of planning, coordination and extension delivery at the provincial level. A Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Service ( PAFES) should be created.

6. Promotion of multiple cropping to create more jobs, produce more food and raise farmer income

   It is imperative that a shift from monocropping to multiple cropping must be done for economic and environmental sustainability.

   “Intercropping, relay cropping feasible with most crops, have more control on amount and time of availability of irrigation water.  We need to invest more in small irrigation systems to supplement large irrigation systems.   The National Irrigation Administration must also be returned to the DA for proper coordination of irrigation development, management and maintenance,” said Javier.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)