Secretary Ramon Paje of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has called on the public to remain vigilant against wildlife crime and help authorities stamp out the illegal trade that is pushing endangered species toward extinction.
The environment chief renewed his call for vigilance following the recent arrest of wildlife offenders in two separate cases by operatives of the DENR-led Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade, also known as Task Force POGI.
Aside from being vigilant, Paje said the public can help combat illegal wildlife trade by not patronizing illegal wildlife consumerism.
“The public can assist us in two ways: by being vigilant and reporting suspected illegal traders, and by refusing to buy or own wildlife pets sourced from these illegal traders. And we are grateful that there are those who have already been heeding this call,” Paje said.
He added: “Remember that when there are no buyers, there are no sellers nor poachers. It is also easy to verify the legality of a wildlife trader’s business operation through a certification from the DENR.”
Just recently, Task Force POGI – a composite group of personnel deputized by the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and officers of law enforcement agencies like the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation – was able to apprehend two wildlife suspects in separate cases involving violations of Republic Act (RA) No. 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.
One of the operations conducted by Task Force POGI last September 23 led to the arrest of a certain Jerry Juan of Caloocan City, a tomb caretaker at the Manila North Cemetery who had converted a mausoleum into a bird breeding center and another into a makeshift aviary.
More than 60 birds of different kinds, including the endangered Philippine cockatoo, were confiscated from the suspect.
The other operation held last October 5 resulted in the arrest of a certain Artemio Lordan of Calaca, Batangas, and the rescue of a Brahminy kite, locally known as lawin, that he was selling along Aguinaldo Highway in Alfonso, Cavite.
The two suspects were arrested after “concerned citizens” phoned in. The confiscated birds have been turned over to the nearest wildlife rescue centers of DENR in Cavite and in Quezon City.
Under RA 9147, mere possession of endangered wildlife species is an automatic felony punishable by a jail term of up to two years and a fine of not more than P20,000. Involvement in illegal trade of endangered species carries a penalty of two years imprisonment and a fine of P200,000. PNA