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.