The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has won a legal case against a wildlife trader who was behind the illegal shipment of more than 700 live tarantulas intercepted at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport last year.
In a decision dated Nov. 20, Judge Allan Ariola of the Pasay City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 48 convicted Jesse Camaro for illegally transporting 757 pieces of tarantulas with an estimated value of P310,900 and customs duties and taxes amounting to P54,752.
Camaro was sentenced to six months in prison and fined P20,000. He was also fined P100,000 for violating the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the decision was “a testimony of the DENR’s effectiveness in bringing justice to the voiceless wildlife species.
“The growing number of illegal trading cases prompts us to make environmental law enforcement as one of the priorities in the DENR,” Cimatu said.
Cimatu had earlier said the bill creating the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau under the DENR should be “a priority law to protect those in the frontlines of environmental protection efforts”.
The DENR’s Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade or Task Force POGI, in cooperation with the Bureau of Customs, seized the tarantulas in April 2019.
Task Force POGI is a composite team of wildlife enforcers from various agencies, including the Biodiversity Management Bureau, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police.
Environmental Protection and Enforcement Task Force Executive Director Nilo Tamoria said the creation of EPEB would not only help save the lives of the enforcers, but also “make DENR more effective in enforcing environmental laws”.
“If we had an enforcement bureau, we would have more flexibility and advantage in prosecuting the individuals who continue to violate our environmental laws,” Tamoria said.
He says the pandemic has not stopped the illegal wildlife traders from taking advantage of the situation to continue their activities.
“It gives us more impetus on running after environmental crimes with the support we are getting from the legislature, especially with the increasing number of legislators manifesting their co-sponsorship of the EPEB Bill,” Tamoria said.