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The majestic Philippine eagle, the elegant manta ray, the adorable slow loris, and numerous other threatened species have a better chance of survival after multi-stakeholder law enforcement groups in the Philippines took strides forward on 24 November 2016 by drafting the first Wildlife Law Enforcement Action Plan (WildLEAP).

Global environmental crime is valued between US$ 40 and US$ 70 billion per year.  Each year, the Philippines loses natural resources valued at over US$ 1 billion (PHP 50 bn) from environmental crimes. Through the Illegal wildlife trade specifically, the country incurs economic losses of about US$ 230 million (PHP 11 billion) per year, mainly through foregone tourism revenues.

WildLEAP will be implemented from 2017-2028, in line with the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP). It complements the existing national environmental law enforcement plan, and laws governing forestry and fisheries sectors. The substantive content of WildLEAP was drawn from proceedings of the First Wildlife Law Enforcement Summit convened in Davao City on 22-23 November 2016.

Key elements of WildLEAP include sets of specific actions to address existing gaps under the following components: a) capacity building; b) communication, education, and public awareness; c) policy; d) networking and coordination, e) good governance; f) curbing corruption; and g) resource mobilization.

wildleap

The Philippines was among the first countries to crush confiscated ivory (21 June 2013);

Credit: National Geographic News

WildLEAP will be coordinated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources -Biodiversity Management Bureau  (DENR-BMB), with participation of key law enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Bureau of Customs, Philippine Coast Guard, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), Philippines Ports Authority (PPA), Philippines Operations Group on Ivory (POGI), regional, provincial and local government bodies, and civil society organizations, among other stakeholders.

Core DENR funding for the plan, including personnel services costs, will be in the range of US$ 1.0 million per year to be secured through annual budgeting processes.  Complementary technical and financial support is proposed to be provided through the Global Environment facility (GEF) Global Wildlife Program (GWP) sub-project on “Combating Environmental Organized Crime in the Philippines” (US$ 2 m) executed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB); and the PROTECT Wildlife Project financed by USAID (US$ 25 m).

Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim of the DENR-BMB emphasized that WildLEAP “will be the national bible for all enforcers throughout the country in the fight against illegal wildlife trade,  as well as poaching of native and endemic species that OTHERWISE WOULD contribute to well functioning terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems, and other wildlife-related crimes that compromise survival of our species, increase risk to human health, deprive our local communities from the benefits of sustainable resource use, and threaten national security.  The WildLEAP will also aid us in improving our processes and in tracking enforcement progress over time.”

The proposed GEF funding will help develop and refine capacity building and training approaches, strengthen tactical law enforcement operations at selected “hotspot” areas, such as Davao, Butuan, General Santos, Cebu and Metro Manila, and initiate demand reduction campaigns aimed at curbing illegal import and use of ivory, pangolins and others; as well as poaching of native and endemic species that contribute to well functioning terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems.  It will draw on a wide range of available tools and resources, including those offered under the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), and emerging best practices under the GEF Ports of Excellence initiative.