Counter-IWT Projects - Best Practices

Best Practices in the Philippines

The Philippines is one of 17 mega-diverse countries worldwide, which is reflected by its abundant biodiversity that includes over 52,000 species, of which more than half are endemic to the country. Adding to this breadth of life are the manifold habitats in this country, ranging from mossy forest ecosystems, over wetlands and lush tropical forests, to coastal and marine ecosystems that surround the entire country with a coastline of over 36,000km. Moreover, the country is located in midst the Coral Triangle, a geographical area covering six island nations known for their unique marine biodiversity dubbed the “underwater equivalent of the Amazon”, with the Philippines is at its very center.

With such a wide range of wildlife and ecosystems, comes the responsibility to protect them. Threats, such as habitat destruction, the overexploitation of natural resources, pollution (waste, light, noise), increased population density, and conflicting policies can quickly turn this paradise into turmoil. As IWT source, transit, and destination country, the issue in the Philippines is complex and requires strategic and long-term investments and responses. The lead agency for combatting IWT is the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The agency acts through the Wildlife Protection and Conservation Act, or RA 9147, which is the key legislation to protect and conserve the country’s wildlife. It is complemented by the Wildlife Law Enforcement Action Plan (WildLEAP) (2018-2028), which provides the roadmap for combatting IWT in the decade to come. In 2013, the Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife (POGI) was created, which is the national task force to combat IWT and consists of law enforcers from different government agencies. The efforts of the task force were recognized in 2020, as they are one of the eight winners of the 5th Asia Environmental Enforcement Award in 2020.

The government’s most recent efforts to halt IWT have taken place under the DENR-ADB/GEF Project “Combating Environmental Organized Crime in the Philippines”, which is in more detail presented below.

Pictures first row, from left to right: 1) Seizure of more than 700 live tarantulas smuggled from Poland in the Philippines, 04/2019; 2) An escaped pet hedgehog turned over to PCSD, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Philippines, 12/2020; 3) Seizure of 1,500 live turtles and tortoises packed and taped inside a suitcase, including star tortoises and red-eared sliders, among others, Philippines, 03/2019; 4) Confiscated palm cockatoos smuggled from Indonesia to the Philippines, 03/2018
Pictures second row, from left to right: 5) African sculpture made out of ivory for sale in Manila, 2019; 6) Philippine Bureau of Customs seized more than 250 smuggled bear and bobcat claws, Philippines, 12/2018; 7) One of the 10 Philippine pangolins seized by the police, Philippines, 06/2019; 8) Seizure of agarwood during a buy-bust in Metro Manila, Philippines, 10/2019.
Pictures 1), and 3)-8) by courtesy of Emerson Y. Sy. Picture 2) by courtesy of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.

Combating Environmental Organized Crime in the Philippines

Project Information: The Combating Environmental Organized Crime in the Philippines Project, or in short IWT Project, is a 4 year (by extension) Global Environment Facility (GEF)-6 funded project (2018-2021), with a total grant of USD1.83 million and a total co-financing of USD 1.47 million from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The IWT Project is placed under the regional Knowledge Support and Technical Assistance (TA) 9461: Protecting and Investing in Natural Capital in Asia and the Pacific and focuses on combating IWT in the Philippines via three components: 1) Strengthen legal and institutional frameworks and increase knowledge exchange, 2) Build capacity  across the law enforcement chain, and 3) Implement public awareness and demand reduction measures. The project is also part of the Global Wildlife Program funded by the GEF and administered by the World Bank, including governments of 32 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. It is implemented in three project sites: The National Capital Region, Cebu Province, and CARAGA Administrative Region. The key taxonomic groups assessed and protected are marine turtles and parrots, particularly the blue-naped parrot species. The Philippines is considered a source, transit, and destination country, with species most commonly confiscated belonging to the taxonomic groups of reptiles and birds, as well as pangolin species. 

Seaport assessments: Six domestic and international seaports were assessed  as to their capacity to intercept wildlife trafficking using the Port  Monitoring and Anti-Trafficking Evaluation (PortMATE) Tool developed by the UNDP/GEF Project on Reducing Maritime Trafficking of Wildlife between Africa and Asia. Originally intended for application in international ports, PortMATE was modified and recalibrated by the Project for use in domestic seaports, particularly in the Philippine context.  The type of port, commodities transported, and use for passengers and container cargoes were considered in customizing the tool. The assessments resulted in a wealth of data that may be used to improve port operations and management. Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between the DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), DENR-Region 7 and Cebu Ports Authority (CPA) were signed to facilitate the assessment of ports within their jurisdictions, as well as to identify other areas of cooperation.

Wildlife Rescue Center (WRC) Assessments: Cognizant of the important role WRCs play not only in the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife but also as custodians of evidence of IWT, an assessment of five DENR-established WRCs in the project sites was undertaken using the Assessment Framework and Methodology developed by the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB). The assessment reviewed WRC management policies and veterinary protocols against global scientific standards, and gauged the capability of WRCs to meet acceptable  standards of care for wildlife through the necessary infrastructure and the delivery of veterinary care and services. The assessment results will form the basis to improve the operations of WRCs so that these facilities may better support biodiversity conservation, and provide guidance to law enforcers on WRC protocols and procedures. The results of the assessments are now being used by some of the WRCs as basis in the rehabilitation of their facilities.

E-Training Course: Under the capacity building component, a self-paced online e-Training Course on Basic Wildlife Law Enforcement (BWLE), with seven Modules and 18 Topics, was developed to offer remote learning, adapt to restrictions in face-to-face training, and to provide a comprehensive compendium of topics that are essential for wildlife law enforcers  and other interested stakeholders to know about. It allows the participants to take the course online at their own time, pace, and space. The e-Training Course was developed in collaboration with the DENR- BMB and Subject Matter Experts, and was launched on World Wildlife Day 2021. It is accessible at ADB e-Learn  after registration to the platform. There is an on-going discussion with the DENR-Human Resources Development Service for the integration of this Course into the DENR-Environment and Natural Resources Academy.

Reducing Consumer Demand: Under the demand reduction component falls a consumer demand survey on IWT purchase patterns, an economic valuation study assessing the value of blue-naped parrots and marine turtles in the Philippines, as well as the production of awareness raising materials, such as the following spotlights: