A total of 180 staff from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and law enforcement agencies graduated from the Basic Wildlife Law Enforcement (BWLE) training held online from July 10-August 10, 2020 for Regions 13 and 11, and August 13 – 28, 2020 for Region 7, respectively.
Among the graduates are 119 staff from DENR Regions 13, 11 and 7; Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Offices (PENRO) in Agusan Del Norte, Agusan Del Sur, Surigao Del Norte, Surigao Del Sur, Dinagat Island, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor; and Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices (CENRO) in 22 locations in the regions.
Sixty-one (61) participants from partner regulatory and enforcement agencies also completed the training. These agencies include the Department of Agriculture - Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Bureau of Plant Industry, Bureau of Animal industry, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, and Bureau of Customs.
The virtual training aimed to equip the participants with the sufficient knowledge and appropriate skills to respond to rising cases of illegal wildlife trade (IWT) in the country. These include topics on substantive laws relevant to wildlife, procedural laws, as well as technical and practical skills on wildlife handling, investigation, surveillance, apprehension, seizure, among others.
DENR Region 13 Executive Director Hadja Didaw Brahim shared that the Philippines, a megadiverse country, faces an unprecedented and accelerating rate of habitat destruction and species loss due to overexploitation and wildlife trafficking. She recognized the value of the training to develop the skills of regulatory and enforcement agencies tasked to combat these crimes.
DENR Region 7 Executive Director Paquito Melicor Jr., on the other hand, emphasized the need for increased sharing of information among government agencies. He lauded the training for not only developing the skills of the participants but for also providing a platform for collaboration and teamwork across agencies.
Asec. Ricardo L. Calderon, OIC, Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and concurrent Director of DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB), congratulated all the graduates and thanked them for their active participation in the trainings. He shared that CARAGA and Region 11 are hotspots for wildlife trafficking because it is the connecting link for species coming from Indonesia. He also emphasized the critical role of wildlife law enforcement in combating these transnational crimes, as well as in preventing future pandemics brought about by the rise of zoonotic diseases.
The training sessions were originally set for face-to-face delivery in March-April 2020. However, due to community quarantine restrictions on travel and social gathering, the training team led by Tanggol Kalikasan, in coordination with DENR-BMB, DENR Regional offices and Asian Development Bank (ADB), decided to convert them into online trainings that are 1.5- 3.5 hours-long per day.
Participants in areas with poor internet connection were also given the option to attend the trainings at the nearest CENRO or PENRO Office.
Additional online BWLE trainings are planned for DENR Region 7 (Cebu and Bohol) and DENR National Capital Region.
The abovementioned trainings are part of the support provided by the Project on Combating Environmental Organized Crime in the Philippines, a three-year Global Environment Facility (GEF)-6-funded project executed by the DENR-BMB with the ADB as the GEF Implementing Agency. It aims to combat environmental organized crime in the Philippines through legal and institutional reforms, capacity building in the full law enforcement chain, and reduction of demand for illegal wildlife and wildlife parts and derivatives.