DENR, partners eye heavy sanctions for marine looters PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 10 June 2011 13:43

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other agencies concerned will cite the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act as basis for charging parties responsible for the contraband of black corals, turtles and other endangered marine species which authorities seized over the past weeks.

“Penalties in the Wildlife Act are stiffer than those in the Fisheries Code,” DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said Wednesday during a press conference in Quezon City.
He noted violators of the Wildlife Act can be sanctioned with a maximum penalty of PhP1 million and/or up to 12 years’ imprisonment.
The Fisheries Code penalizes with a mere PhP200,000 fine and/or up to two years’ imprisonment parties guilty of harvesting and trading endangered species, he said.
“There’s a big difference in the sanctions,” he said.

Paje believes the full force of the law must be applied to violators since they wrought havoc on the environment which people depend on for their needs.
Even if government can confiscate all the violators’ marine loot, he said the environmental damage and ecological imbalance they have caused will be difficult to address.
“We can’t return to the environment what they stole there,” he said.

Paje said the DENR, Department of Agriculture (DA) and Bureau of Customs already submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) information for filing the case against erring parties concerned.

He also thanked the DA for supporting DENR’s proposal to use the Wildlife Act as basis for the charge.
Authorities seized nationwide since last month multi-million peso contraband shipments of endangered marine species believed destined for the foreign market.
Such catch includes prized black corals which authorities recovered in Zamboanga last week.

“There are still unaccounted sacks and boxes seized in Zamboanga,” Paje reported.
The black corals’ intricate lace-like designs and fan shape make these one of the most sought-after marine species for decoration.
Such corals are also rare.

“We might find only three to five pieces of black corals per hectare,” Paje said.
To help curb looting of wildlife species, Paje reiterated the DENR continues promoting social fencing within communities nationwide.
He noted this strategy helps guard against possible illegal harvesting of wildlife in such communities.

DENR’s target is to curb market demand for and prevent collection of endangered species, he said.
Paje also continued calling on local government units (LGUs) to monitor their respective waters stretching up to 15 kilometers from shore.
He noted that within such areas, LGUs have the exclusive authority to enforce environmental laws.
Several species that are generally illegally harvested are found in such areas, he added.