Senate panel wants 'more teeth' to PH wildlife protection law

Published July 1, 2021, 8:51 AM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources has moved to strengthen the Philippines’ wildlife conservation and protection law to address the persisting problem in illegal wildlife trade and similar offenses.

A Philippine pangolin captured in Balayan, Batangas is rescued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in July, 2020. The Philippine pangolin is classified as a ‘critically endangered’ specie whose population is said to be decreasing due to poaching and trafficking. (Photo courtesy of the DENR Calabarzon)

Senator Cynthia Villar, committee chairperson, said the panel will be consolidating the two Senate bills seeking to amend the Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act, to boost government mechanisms against wildlife trafficking.

During the hearing on Wednesday, June 30, Villar said the despite the enactment of the RA 9147, “illegal wildlife trade persisted, even during this pandemic”, citing news reports of arrests and wildlife confiscations.

“But these were just some wildlife crimes that were detected. Many illegal wildlife trade happen every day undetected and the people behind it remain unapprehended. Their trade have been made easier with the use of modern technology and some, with the help of social media,” the senator said.

“Thus, we need to give more teeth, so to speak, to the law to help enforcement authorities also to apprehend violators,” Villar stressed, further describing the law as “outdated” and “are like mere slaps on the wrist when compared to the severity of the actions of the perpetrators”.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who also filed a similar proposal on the matter, likewise lamented the continued degradation of the environment and illegal collection of wildlife resources.

Stakeholders supported the lawmakers’ initiative and called for solutions to the gaps in the law, as well as the possible roots of wildlife trafficking.

Among others, the Department on Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) pointed out the “ambiguities and vague language” in the penal provisions of the RA 9147.

The agency also cited the lack of personnel and funding to implement the law.

Under the proposals, wildlife trafficking will be defined and treated as a “distinct and separate offense” which shall with slapped with “severe penalty”.

Stiffer penalties shall be imposed on more serious offenses, Villar said.

Contents of the substitute bill will be finalized by a technical working group.