Cimatu calls for vigilance to stem wildlife trade after arrest of 2 pangolin traffickers

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has appealed to the public to be more vigilant and help the government in its effort to curb illegal wildlife trade following the arrest of two suspected wildlife traffickers in Quezon City last week.

The suspects, Rowena Pindot and Joel Quimado, were arrested by the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (AILTF) after they tried to sell pangolins through social media for P75,000 each or P4,500 per kilogram.

Pangolin is the most trafficked animal in the world, topping elephant, tiger, and rhino. Pangolins are high in demand for their meat and scales.   The Philippines has the Palawan Pangolin to protect against illegal wildlife traders that are targeting the endangered species.

In a news statement, Cimatu decried the continuous wildlife trafficking activities despite warnings that illegal trade can facilitate the transmission of zoonotic diseases, such as Covid-19.

Six live pangolins, consisting of five adult males and one adult female, were rescued and brought to the DENR-BMB’s Wildlife Rescue Center in Quezon City.

“The pandemic has spotlighted the lethal consequences of illegal wildlife trade to our ecosystem and the public health risks associated with it. We will not tolerate these activities. We are assuring the public that reports provided to the DENR will be acted upon promptly,” Cimatu said.

Pindot and Quimado face charges for violation of Republic Act (RA) 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Protection and Conservation Act of 2001.

Section 23 of RA 9147 states that collection of threatened wildlife, including the by-products and derivatives shall be allowed only for scientific, or breeding or propagation purposes, and provided that only accredited individuals, business, research, educational or scientific entities shall be allowed to collect for conservation breeding or propagation purposes.

Aside from illegal logging, AILTF Executive Director and DENR Undersecretary for Protected Areas and Special Concerns Edilberto D. Leonardo said they have been also tasked to enforce other environmental laws and run after violators engaged in illegal wildlife activities, illegal mining, including illegal discharge or dumping of waste in the air, land and water bodies.

The AILTF—created in 2011 by virtue of Executive Order (EO) 23 that declared a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests—is mandated to enforce Section 68 of Presidential Decree 705, as amended by RA 7161 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, which criminalizes the gathering and/or collecting timber or other products without a license.

President Duterte directed the revival of the AILTF on January 30, 2021, in the wake of widespread flooding caused by Typhoon Ulysses in November 2020.

Leonardo said the AILTF has already launched 46 operations since its first operation in July, leading to the arrest of 61 individuals and the confiscation of some P10 million worth of undocumented forest products, including banned wildlife species and some P3 million worth of fossilized clamshells (Tridacna gigas), locally called “taklobo.”

The AILTF is composed of personnel from the DENR, Philippine National Police, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, and Armed Forces of the Philippines.

It is clustered into AILTF for Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao with its command post at the office of the Undersecretary for Protected Areas and Special Concerns at the DENR Central Office in Quezon City.


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