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MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has temporarily suspended the transportation of all forest products and wildlife throughout the country to contain the spread of the corona virus disease (COVID-19).

The DENR is taking this precautionary measure considering recent research that links the origin of COVID-19 with illegal wildlife trade. According to a report by TRAFFIC, a leading non-government organization working globally on trade in wild animals and plants, there appears to be a strong likelihood of connection between zoonotic transmission of disease and the trade of wild animals. While the origin of the virus is still not clear, it is believed that it may have originated from bats and may have made the jump to people through a yet to be identified intermediary host in a wet market in Wuhan, China.

In a memo released on March 26, 2020, Sec. Cimatu instructed all DENR Regional Executive Directors to suspend the “acceptance, processing, and issuance of all transport-related permits or documents for all forest products and wildlife.” This includes the transportation of such items by land, sea, or air.

The directive exempts the transport of lumber that will be used for the construction/ expansion of COVID-19 facilities.

All accepted applications and those being processed already before the issuance of the said Memorandum shall be inventoried and given preference in processing and issuance once the suspension is lifted.

The said suspension will be in effect until the state of national emergency has been lifted throughout the country.

On March 24, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” placing the country under a state of emergency effective for three months unless extended and granting the president additional powers to fight the emergency health crisis.

As of April 2, 2020, there are now more than 900,000 COVID-19 infections globally and almost 46,000 deaths (WHO). In the Philippines, the disease has infected 2,633 people, resulting to 107 deaths (DOH).