WHILE millions of people wallow in grinding poverty, particularly in the countryside, poachers and wildlife traffickers and their cohorts in government uniform continue to amass wealth.
It is certainly lamentable and saddening that impoverished Philippines, a country of more than 100 million people, is now a transit hub for illegal trade routes, notably for ivory and pangolin.
Hunting and poaching upset the ecology of forest grounds and agricultural lands, while wildlife trafficking fuels corruption and crime, according to the United States Embassy in Manila.
Aware of this, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided the Philippines US$25 million (P1.333 billion) to stop illegal trade of wildlife in the country.
The project is being implemented with the participation of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Conservation International and other law enforcement agencies.
Recently, USAID, DENR and Conservation International convened partners from law enforcement agencies and environmental groups for a forum on stamping out illegal wildlife trade.
At the forum, USAID Philippines General Development Officer Robert Pierce called for a united front to counter poaching, trafficking and illegal trade of wildlife species and their by-products..
“USAID sees illegal wildlife trade not only as a threat to the environment, but also as a threat to sustainable development,” said Pierce, adding the agency has trained 400 men and women.
He said these forest guards, fish wardens and indigenous people were trained to identify and address environmental and wildlife crimes through a stronger and more coordinated response.
Blessed with forests and mountains teeming with exotic plants and animals, the Philippines should act now – and fast -- if we are to stop the illegal but flourishing trade of wildlife.