June 30, 2021 at 10:30 pm
Stressing that many illegal wildlife trades happen daily yet undetected and the people behind it remain unapprehended, the Senate on Wednesday started its hearing on the 20-year-old Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.
Senator Cynthia Villar and Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri cited the need to boost and improve RA 9147, particularly on the imposition of stronger, more specific penalties to enhance its deterrent effect.
Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, said the Philippines is a signatory to the Convention in International Trade on Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Zubiri, principal author of RA 9147, noted that the Wildlife Act is ripe for revision based on the collective experience of government regulators, law enforcement agencies, volunteers, non-government organizations, scientists and researchers, conservationists, local government units, and legitimate wildlife breeders, traders, and hobbyists.
“It’s high time that the Wildlife Act be updated to comply or be consistent with the Philippine treaty obligations concerning wildlife under multi-lateral agreements such as CITES, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS),” Zubiri said during the hybrid hearing on wildlife conservation.
He noted that the legal loopholes exploited by illegal wildlife collectors and traders must be removed.
For her part, Villar said wildlife crimes continue to proliferate despite the pandemic. “This can be proven by the number of persons arrested and wildlife species confiscated,” she said.
“We have to give more teeth to the law to have enforcement authorities to apprehend violators,” Villar said.
However, she said the penalties under RA 9147 are outdated and are like mere “slaps on the wrist” when compared to the severity of the actions of the perpetrators, particularly those involved in large-scale illegal wildlife trade and wildlife trafficking -- which have yet to be defined and included as offenses as being proposed by the Senate bills.
She noted the incidence of wildlife crimes has evolved and grown, the violators have become more equipped, organized, and syndicated.
“The trade and transport of wildlife species have become wide-scale and transnational in nature,” Villar added.
Their trade, the senator added, have been made easier with the use of modern technology and some with the help of social media.
Studies suggest that globally, wildlife is the 4th largest illegal trade after drugs, arms, and human trafficking.
RA No. 9147 is the environmental policy enabling the Philippine government to manage and conserve the wildlife resources of the country comprehensively.
RA 9147 included provisions on the following:
Conservation guidelines on the collection, possession, transport, and breeding or propagation of wildlife.
The conduct of bioprospecting or scientific research; the issuance of the pertinent permits with corresponding fees.
Determination of threatened wildlife species to be categorized as Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Other Accepted Categories.
The establishment of critical habitats.
The list of illegal acts that are considered detrimental to wildlife with corresponding penalties to perpetrators.
The seizure of wildlife in illegal trade; The establishment of a wildlife management fund, national wildlife research centers, wildlife rescue centers, wildlife monitoring units, botanical gardens, and zoological parks.
Through the years, the Philippine enforcement authorities were able to apprehend perpetrators of wildlife offenses and/or confiscate the illegally traded wildlife species.