The House Committee on Natural Resources has taken a huge step toward improving protection for Philippine wildlife.
This, after the committee chaired by Cavite 4th district Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. approved the substitute bill to a measure seeking to amend Republic Act (RA) No.9147, or the “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.” The law is 19 years old.
The substitute measure originally represented the consolidation of House Bill (HB) Nos. 265, 3351, and 4860, also known as the revised Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.
But Barzaga recommended including salient features from two more bills, namely HB Nos.1684 and 3614, into the substitute measure since they were closely related. Camarines Sur Rep. Lray Villafuerte and Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas penned the bills, respectively.
The latter two bills bat for the regulation of the catching, sale, purchase, possession, transportation, importation, and exportation of all sharks, rays, and chimaeras and any part thereof in the country.
“Actually these House Bills have been approved during the previous (17th) Congress. But unfortunately it was not approved in the Senate. The subject matter of these two bills are actually related with the substitute bill that we have just approved…the suggestion is that we shall incorporate the pertinent provisions of these two bills to the draft substitute bill,” the solon from Dasmariñas said.
This was ultimately moved and approved by a panel member after Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez, author of HB No.4860, gave concurrence to it. The invited resource persons, including Theresa Tenazas of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) Biodiversity Management Bureau, supported it.
Rodriquez’s bill states that the Philippines has a very diverse wildlife. “We have famous species like the Philippine Eagle, the Tamaraw and the Philippine Tarsier,” he wrote in his measure’s explanatory note.
“According to the Biodiversity Management Bureau, the Philippines has about 133 terrestrial mammals, 230 birds, 244 reptiles, and 97 amphibian species occurring nowhere else in the world. We also have over 120 fishes that can be found only in Philippine inland and marine waters,” the Cagayan de Oro congressman said.
Referring to RA No. 9147, Rodriguez said: “We need to improve and strengthen this law to meet the demands and problems we have today. This will ensure that our environment would be protected not only for us but for future generations as well.”
Rodriguez bared during the panel discussion that he was happy with the substitute bill’s penal provision, which would give teeth to the eventual law.
“We have discussed this thoroughly and I’m very happy because of the penalties (in the substitute bill). We’re going to imprison for reclusion temporal those who will inflict or undertake against species listed as critically endangered. That is good. That is almost life imprisonment,” he said.
He also approved of the proposed P2-million fine for violators.