Stop the trade! DENR enters pact with PPA to curb smuggling of illegal wildlife

Published May 25, 2021, 5:52 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has partnered up with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade (IWT), which has persisted despite the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

A graphic of the Philippines’ most illegally traded species. (Photo from the ADB)

Specifically, the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) recently entered in a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to strengthen local seaports’ capability to seize illegally traded wildlife.

Specifically mentioned in the MOA are Lipata Port in Surigao del Norte and Nasipit Port in Agusan del Norte, both of which are in Mindanao.

The three ports of Manila–Manila North Harbor, Manila South Harbor, and Manila International Container Terminal–were also the subject of the MOA.

As a starting point, DENR-BMB and PPA have started evaluating emergency response measures against wildlife smuggling at these five seaports. The MOA espouses partnership to combat IWT in all of the 337 PPA-registered seaports nationwide.

Data showed that from 2010 to 2020, there have been 17 cases of wildlife confiscations in ports overseen by the PPA.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), IWT is estimated to have a value of $23 billion per year. This makes it the fourth “largest transnational crime” in the world after narcotics, human trafficking, and arms.

DENR-BMB is implementing a three-year project on capability building against IWT. It is being co-implemented with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

“It aims to combat environmental organized crime in the Philippines through legal and institutional reforms, capacity building in the full law enforcement chain, and reduction of demand for illegal wildlife and wildlife parts and derivatives,” DENR said.

Earlier assessment of the five seaports indicated flaws that have to be addressed in order to fight wildlife trafficking. The evaluation found out that there is an absence of a “single window environment for Electronic Clearance System in the ports'”.

There has also been a lack of intelligence and intelligence access on a regional scale that may help the early detection and interception of wildlife contrabands entering the port. The DENR also said that the following problems must be addressed in order to curb IWT in the country: lack of risk profiling system complemented with wildlife crime risk indicators; absence of a K9 unit that’s able to detect wildlife, by-products, and derivatives; absence of established standard operating procedures for inspection and confiscation of wildlife and other illicit goods; and absence of a protocol on post-confiscation investigation of cases.

Also identified as problems were the absence of an information exchange system with local ports (for PPA) and under-maximized communication exchange with international institutions; absence of an established system to maintain employees’ integrity and professional standards and to deter corrupt practices; absence of industry operators’ participation, and the need for greater cooperation and support from other supply chains.