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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, March 2, 2020
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with Errol A. Gatumbato

Illegal wildlife trade

Rock & Refuge

The outbreak of the coronavirus, or Covid-19, suggests that wildlife trading should no longer be permitted globally.

Although there is already an international treaty that regulates wildlife trading - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora of the United Nations - it seems this instrument did not deter the continuing illegal trade of wildlife in various parts of the world. Aside from regulating the trading, the CITES, through its annexes, has enumerated several species that are already banned for trade.

The Philippines is a party to this convention.

The Covid-19 reportedly originated from a seafood market in Wuhan, China, where wildlife trading was prevalent. It has already spread in all continents of the world, except Antarctica, and took thousands of lives and thousands more affected. The wildlife trade poses hazard for virus transmission from animals to humans, as in the case of Covid-19.

The spread of the Covid-19 is nearing pandemic level, and when it will finally be contained remains uncertain. Community outbreaks of the Covid-19 have already been reported in many countries, and contamination continues unabated every day. Several places have already been locked up, resulting to the declining international flights, and some economies are slowing down, not only in heavily and badly affected China, but as well as other nations.

According to the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, illegal wildlife trade is the fourth most lucrative international business, next to narcotics, human trafficking, and firearms. The worth of this global trade is valued from US$10 billion to US$23 billion annually. The BMB said the Philippines is a consumer, source, and transit point of illegal wildlife trade with estimated cost at P50 billion a year. The amount includes the market value of wildlife and their resources, ecological values, damage to habitats during the poaching, and loss in potential ecotourism revenues.

The illegal wildlife trade in the Philippines involves our endemic and foreign species and their associated resources. During the past years, the BMB had confiscated tons of elephant ivory tusks, mynas, endemic and exotic parrots, pangolins and their scales, marine and freshwater turtles, cockatoos, endemic pitcher plants, and lady slipper orchids, among others.

Some of these species are globally threatened to extinction in the wild. The pangolins are being suspected as the intermediary animal that caused the spread of coronavirus to humans, as it is known that bats are the carrier of the said virus. The pangolins are the most heavily trafficked species for their meat and scales.

The BMB has identified the hotspots of entry and transhipment points of illegal wildlife trade in the country, including Bacolod City. The main entry point of wildlife trade from Indonesia is the Balut Island in Davao Occidental, while its transhipment point and confiscation sites are usually in General Santos, Glan, Sarangani, Lipata in Surigao del Norte, and Metro Manila.

Given our geographic feature composed of numerous islands, there are several transhipment areas of illegally traded wildlife. These include Tanza, Rosario, and Bacoor in Cavite, Balayan and Calatagan in Batangas, Lucena Port in Quezon, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, Matnog in Sorsogon, Allen Port in Samar;

Medellin in Cebu, Liloan Port in Southern Leyte, Lipata Port in Surigao del Norte, Mati in Davao Oriental, Dingalan in Aurora, and Bacolod City.

The Philippines has its own Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, as provided for in Republic Act 9147, and yet wildlife poaching is still occuring nationwide.

This law prohibits hunting, collecting, and trading of wildlife species without necessary permits from the DENR. The BMB has identified major poaching sites in the country, based on confiscation data, and these are Palawan, Aurora, Quezon, Nueva Ecija, Samar, Leyte, Bohol, and Agusan del Norte. Other areas identified as major wildlife poaching sites are Bukidnon, Mapun Island, Turtle Islands and Pampanga.*

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