By Recto Mercene
Government officials signed a bilateral agreement with the United States to combat illegal trade of and other crimes against wildlife, the Philippine Embassy announced on Wednesday.
Officials of the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service signed the agreement, Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. said in a statement.
The agreement will provide the Philippines with access to and use of the US National Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Oregon, considered to be the only laboratory in the world that is dedicated to crimes against wildlife, Mr. Cuisia added.
“With this agreement, our law-enforcement authorities in the Philippines can be expected to more effectively prosecute wildlife traffickers and other offenders,” Cuisia said in welcoming the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU).
He claims the agreement would give “more teeth to the ongoing efforts to curb wildlife trafficking in the Philippines as the results of the tests of wildlife samples and biota that would be submitted to the forensics lab will be considered admissible evidence in Philippine courts.”
The MOU was signed by Director Dan Ashe of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, DENR Undersecretary Analiza Teh and the DA-BFAR Director Asis Perez.
“The fight to prevent wildlife trafficking and halt its devastating impact on some of the world’s most well-known and well-loved wild animals is going to take a global effort,” Ashe was quoted in the statement as saying.
“This [MOU\ between our two countries exemplifies the sort of international cooperation that will help us win this fight and save species such as the African elephant and rhino,” he added.
This collaboration is the latest in the Partnership for Biodiversity II program, a joint program of the US Agency for International Development and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, under which the latter provides assistance on environmental law enforcement to Philippine law-enforcement agencies.
Ashe claims that access to his country’s forensics lab would help local police and prosecutors build stronger cases against wildlife traffickers.
“This is good news for native wildlife and for dozens of species from across the globe that may be smuggled into or through the Philippines.”
The laboratory supports law-enforcement efforts in 179 other countries, including the Philippines, that signed the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
The agreement would also serve as the foundation for expanded cooperative anti-trafficking initiatives between Philippines and United States law-enforcement agencies in coming years, according to Cuisia.