Press Release
May 29, 2011

Transcript of interview with Senator Migz Zubiri, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources
ANC May 27, 2011


Sen. Migz: I was absolutely shocked and saddened. I was very moved because I am a rescue diver, I have been diving since 1998 and you know it is becoming so difficult to find beautiful dive spots in the Philippines as you had to travel farther and farther away from the main island provinces because of the destruction of the corals reefs with in the coastal areas, it's only now or it's only been the last five to six years since bantay dagat had been mobilized and actually put structures in place to protect these coastal resources.

These coral reefs are the home of thousand of species of fish and they are breeding ground, the spawning ground of our fish.. you can interview any fishing businessman and they will tell you that they have to go now farther away from the Philippines to find fish to feed our people. It is becoming a national security concern, not only does it affect our ecotourism potentials -- because we are losing out to Malaysia, to Thailand and Indonesia, of beautiful dive spots, that means we are losing out tourists -- and secondly we are losing out the ability to feed out people.

I am standing up on Monday as my duty as the chairman of the committee on environment to condemn this particular act and we have laws in place. This is actually a travesty of our laws, I was the author of the Wildlife Conservation Act in the year 2000 when i was still a congressman and it protects wildlife and its habitat, so we have the laws in place we just have to implement the law. But, the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau has a miniscule budget on area of protection, not their fault, but we just have to place our priorities where it should be and it should be habitat protection, we just add their budget for more forest rangers, more bantay dagat individuals together with BFAR to catch these people and put them to jail finally.

I support them (Malacanang statement appealing to the public locally and internationally to boycott these black corals) I am very happy that they come out strongly against what has happened in our coral reefs. They are correct we should actually continuously get the international community to stop the sale and trade of these corals and other coral species for the jewelry trade. Many of these corals are for the jewelry trade, you buy these black corals, red corals, are sold in Europe and US. We should get these governments to participate in the ban on the trade and sale of these corals so that the harvesting will stop.

It is unfortunate that the local government communities are not supporting our efforts in curbing these type of illegal practices. These container vans full of corals had come from a locality, it could come from a particular local government unit, and I mean it is impossible that these people could not have seen the damage brought about by these illegal poachers and how come nobody has opened their mouths, probably corruption was in place there and they probably looked the other way but that is where we are going to the bottom of these things.

After my privilege speech on Monday, we are planning to have a hearing probably by Wednesday and we are going to have an ocular inspection on Monday morning of the corals that they have seized. (OCULAR INSPECTION WILL BE ON MONDAY, 30 MAY AT 9:00 A.M. GATE 3 SOUTH HARBOR, PORT AREA, MANILA. HE WILL BE JOINED BY BFAR AND CUSTOMS OFFICIALS)

We are going to see which localities these corals came from, will invite the mayors, the environment officers of these localities and if they fail to attend we will subpoena them to get to the bottom of this.

We should put this illegal activity to stop, we should investigate to see who is behind it and for the proper agencies to file the necessary charges, I do not doubt the will power of this administration to enforce the law.

On the lack of budget, we can rearrange the budget but the priority should come from Malacanang, now it would be nice to see them make a statement.... I want to see a larger budget for the protection of wildlife habitat i think that is more important. I am not only talking about the administration of PNoy, but during the past administrations have not given that type of priority when it comes to the protection of wildlife habitat. If i were the president, unsolicited advice, i would put up similar to what they do in Africa, in Brazil, set up a wildlife police, they have funding, radio equipment, high powered weapons, fast boats...

It will be a great agenda for the president to put up and/or lobby for international cooperation especially in Southeast Asia because it seems that within the ASEAN that these poachers are making money.

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