Since wildlife crimes have also evolved and violators have become more equipped, organized and syndicated or have international connections, Senator Cynthia Villar vouched to give more teeth to existing laws and policies on wildlife protection.
Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, said this would also help enforcement authorities as the trade and transport of wildlife species had become wide-scale and transnational in nature.
To address this concern, Villar filed Senate Bill 2078, or “An Act Strengthening The Wildlife Conservation And Protection Mechanism In The Philippines.” It will amend Republic Act 9147, otherwise known as the “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act Of 2001”.
RA 9147 is a measure that provided the necessary environmental policy enabling Philippine government to manage and conserve the wildlife resources of the country comprehensively.
However, Villar said the 20-year old law needs to be amended because violations, which have remained rampant and many are even undetected, have been evolving.
She also pointed out the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic intensifies the need to protect wildlife resources to prevent the risks of zoonotic diseases or the transmission of disease from animal to human.
The Wildlife Conservation Society said habitat loss forces animals to move to areas populated by people, who become exposed to the pathogens of animals that in turn spread viruses.
“Destruction of natural habitats has been linked to the spread of infectious diseases such as Ebola, HIV, swine fever and avian flu. More than two thirds of these diseases originate in animals, and about 70 percent come from wild animals, or what is referred to as zoonotic diseases,” said Villar.
She said there were studies also suggesting that the COVID-19 virus may have originated from bats and that the first people infected were traders in bat meat, who may have subsequently visited the Huanan seafood market, where the virus spread was first traced.
The Philippines is one of the world’s 17 megadiverse or biodiversity-rich countries, which hosts two-thirds of the Earth’s biodiversity and contain about 70 to 80 percent of the world’s plant and animal species. So, wildlife protection is crucial.
“We need to not only create awareness but to take action because any damage or loss will cost too much for a country such as ours,” said the Nacionalista Party senator.
She further said there is so much at stake and we become vulnerable to the adverse side effects if we do not act fast.
“Thus a stronger law and an even stronger enforcement of it is crucial,” said Villar.