Press Release
September 18, 2008

Loren assails rampant illegal wildlife trade

Senator Loren Legarda assailed today fresh reports of rampant wildlife smuggling in the country, reminding the government of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to which it is a signatory.

The founder and chair of the environmental group Luntiang Pilipinas, Legarda said that the full force of the law must be applied on wildlife smugglers in order to protect the country's rich but threatened bio-diversity.

She lamented complaints aired by non-governmental organizations that some areas in Mindanao are being used as entry or transshipment points for the illegal trade of wildlife.

CITES strictly regulates the international trade in threatened species.

While noting that the Philippines has at least 122 piers, 16 major seaports, six major international airports, 16 collection ports and 160 ports that need to be monitored by the government, Legarda said "there can be no excuses in not doing enough to stop the trade in endangered flora and fauna."

"To guard the many gateways of our archipelagic country is indeed a challenge," said Legarda. "But it is not something which cannot be surmounted by a collective effort of our law enforcement agencies."

She pointed out that the government is not only on the lookout for illegally traded wildlife, but also against illegal drugs, human smuggling and the like.

"If anti-human smuggling units, for example, would make it their concern too to report smuggling of wildlife, then I see better cooperation among government agencies scoring big against such criminal activities," she said.

The Department of the Environment and Natural Resources(DENR) has a standing order to wildlife law enforcers to start prosecuting wildlife smugglers, said Legarda, citing the need for the DENR to come up with a progress report on the issue.

Legarda said that the illegal trade on wildlife is fueled by the cost-is-no-object attitude of many people who acquire and treat wildlife as exotic pets.

An official of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau had said that wild fauna had been smuggled from Indonesia and Malaysia through Mindanao for transshipment to Manila or to other countries.

Exotic birds, cats, seahorses, tortoises and marine turtles are among the commonly traded wildlife species in Southeast Asia, according to the DENR.

A United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) awardee, Legarda said the police must crack down on pet shops that sell endangered animals.

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