The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) renewed calls for the public to help authorities fight the illegal trade in wildlife that is pushing endangered species toward extinction.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje made the appeal in a statement issued on Friday, in a reaction to the recent arrest of wildlife offenders by the DENR-led Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade, also known as Task Force POGI.
Paje said the public can help combat wildlife trafficking by refusing to be part of 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,” he noted.
“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,” Paje said.
Just recently, 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 (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)—was able to arrest two suspected wildlife traffickers.
Last September 23, the group nabbed Jerry Juan of Caloocan City (Metro Manila), 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, including the endangered Philippine cockatoo, were confiscated from Juan.
On October 5, Artemio Lordan of Calaca, Batangas, was arrested while selling a Brahminy kite, locally known as lawin, along Aguinaldo Highway in Alfonso, Cavite.
The two suspects were arrested on information phoned in by concerned citizens. The confiscated birds have been turned over to DENR wildlife rescue centers in Cavite and Quezon City.
Under Republic Act 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.
Trafficking in endangered species carries a penalty of two years’ imprisonment and a fine of P200,000.