MANILA – Even as the cases against foreign poachers caught with endangered marine species keep piling up, two Philippine agencies have tied up with the US government in fighting wildlife trafficking and other environmental crimes.
The Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have entered into an agreement with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, tapping the latter’s forensics laboratory for help in analyzing evidence from wildlife crime investigations in the Philippines.
The agreement was signed after DA-BFAR national director Atty. Asis G. Perez and DENR Undersecretary Analiza Teh attended last week a Study Tour on Forensics Capacity Building Support organized by the US Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. The two officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe to authorize the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon to analyze the evidence from investigations in Manila.
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s Forensics Laboratory is one of very few laboratories in the world which develop techniques for examining, identifying, and comparing physical evidence of crimes against wildlife using a wide range of scientific procedures and instruments.
Under the agreement, samples of wildlife and biota collected by Philippine law enforcement officials can be tested at the laboratory, results of which will be considered admissible evidence in Philippine courts—aiming to lead to greater success in the prosecution of wildlife traffickers.
“This partnership between the Philippines and the US Government is the first of its kind. Our environmental law enforcement capability will surely be enhanced as we move forward with the implementation of this agreement,” Perez explained.
Perez thanked the US Government and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) for supporting the bureau’s mandate and advocacy to protect the Philippines’ unparalleled biodiversity.
“We are truly grateful to the US Government and USAID for the collective efforts resulting into giving Philippine law enforcers access to a very important resource that is the Forensics Laboratory,” said Perez.
The collaboration is the latest in a decade-long partnership involving both the U.S. Interior Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Partnership for Biodiversity Conservation II (PBC II) program.
The MOU between the two countries is also part of a global effort to fight poaching and trafficking, and to stop the devastating impact these illegal activities pose to threatened animal species.