Green group demands amendments to PH's wildlife protection law
MANILA, Philippines — An environmental group on Thursday pressed for the immediate passage of proposed amendments to Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.
Tanggol Kalikasan executive director Ma. Ronely Bisquera-Sheen said it is high time to strengthen the 20-year-old law to address the “increasingly sophisticated and organized” operations of the illegal wildlife trade.
“We call on the 18th Congress to use their power to pass this much-needed law. It will be a worthwhile legacy that will not only protect our wildlife resources, but also the lives and livelihoods of generations of Filipinos,” Bisquera-Sheen said in a statement.
“Crime syndicates are exploiting legal loopholes, low fines and penalties, digital technology, and limited enforcement capacity. RA 9147 must be urgently amended. Our law must keep up with the changing landscape of wildlife crimes and enforcement,” she added.
According to Tanggol Kalikasan, penalties in the current law do not correspond to the gravity of offenses, thus not serving as a deterrent. The group noted that most of the penalties under the law are imprisonment of below six years and that first-time offenders usually apply for probation to skip detention and fines.
For instance, foreign nationals were caught with P1.7 million worth of dried seahorses that are considered endangered species, but ended up paying only a fine of P15,000, the group said.
Senate Bill No. 2078 and 2079, filed by Senator Cynthia Villar and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, respectively, seek the imposition of stronger penalties and enforcement capacity, and the removal of legal loopholes exploited by illegal wildlife traders.
A counterpart House Bill 9833 was approved in August on the third and final reading.
Tanggol Kalikasan said that under the bills, penalties for trading, possession, and transport of wildlife can be as high as eight years of imprisonment and up to P1 million in fines, while penalties for killing or destroying wildlife can reach up to 12 years imprisonment or fines of up to P2 million.
Citing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the environmental group said the estimated value of illegal wildlife trade in the country is P50 billion yearly, including the market value of wildlife and its resources, their ecological role and value, damage to habitats, and loss in potential ecotourism revenues.