The Philippines, having one of the most diverse biological resources in the world, can easily be one of the first to feel the adverse effects of overexploitation of environmental resources. The Philippine government, with its steadfast commitment to ensuring the conservation, management and sustainability of the country’s fauna and flora, continuously bolsters its efforts to address environmental crimes.
R.A. 10654 (AN ACT TO PREVENT, DETER AND ELIMINATE ILLEGAL, UNREPORTED AND UNREGULATED FISHING, AMENDING REPUBLIC ACT NO. 8550, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS “THE PHILIPPINE FISHERIES CODE OF 1998,” AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES)
The Philippines established its National Plan of Action on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (NPOA-IUUF) in December 6, 2013 through Executive Order No. 154. Part of the PH commitments under the NPOA is to review and revise RA 8550 to address IUUF. The salient features of the amendment include the following:
- Introduces concept of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated* (IUU) fishing; unreported and unregulated fishing are new offenses.
- Addresses high seas fishing and fishing in other coastal states by Philippine flagged fishing vessels
- Emphasizes compliance with conventions to conserve and manage living marine resources such as United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS (ecosystems based approach; precautionary principle)
- Increases fines and adopts a wide array of accompanying administrative penalties for serious violations to ensure that sanctions are dissuasive and have deterrent effect
Proposed range of fines for violations/offenses committed by fishing scale:
2M – 9M pesos for small scale commercial fishing
10M – 15M pesos for medium scale commercial fishing
16M – 20M pesos for large scale commercial fishing vessel less than 750 gross tons
25M – 45M pesos for large scale commercial fishing vessel 750 gross tons or more
- Adopts an automatic escalation clause in the amount of fines to address inflation and maintain deterrent effect
- Empowers the department to ensure enforcement of regulatory measures (confiscation, ejectment and impoundment)
- Provides a new chapter on administrative adjudication in order to promptly and effectively deprive offenders of the economic benefits derived from IUU fishing and empowers the Department to organize the Adjudication Committee and to issue Notice of Violations
- Empowers BFAR to prosecute administrative offenses and criminal offenses regardless of where the offense took place
- Introduces concept of community service for municipal fisherfolk offenders
- Adopts broad measures on port state, flag state (vessel monitoring measures, observer program, catch documentation) and market-related measures
- Adopts international and regional conservation management measures and empowers BFAR to enforce the same in Philippine waters including archipelagic waters
National Law Enforcement Coordinating Council – Sub-Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (NALECC – SCENR)
The Philippine government strengthened cooperation and coordination among agencies concerned on environmental protection through the National Law Enforcement Coordinating Council – Sub-Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (NALECC – SCENR). It is chaired by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and serves as the venue for the coordination of all law enforcement activities of various government agencies dealing with environmental concerns.
Member agencies commit to collaborate pertaining to various environmental concerns including wildlife transport and trade monitoring, investigations of the violations committed, and filing and prosecution of cases against the law violators.
Concerted efforts by the various government agencies mandated to enforce the environmental laws in the country have resulted in the subsequent accomplishments.
The Philippine National Police – Maritime Group has conducted 814 operations, arrested 2,571 persons, and seized evidence with an estimated value of 2.8 million pesos in their enforcement of several environmental laws in the country (2015-March 2016). The Biodiversity Management Bureau – Department of Environment and Natural Resources (BMB-DENR) meanwhile conducted 33 enforcement operations (31 from January – December 2015 and 2 from January 2016- present) resulting to the confiscation of more than 9,300 wildlife specimens worth at least PhP 18M and filing of criminal complaints/cases against 38 suspected law violators. From June 2010-present, at least 17 crime perpetrators have been convicted and penalized in accordance with the Wildlife Act and other relevant laws.
The DENR - BMB had implemented various capacity building programs such as: Training of Trainers on the Application of Wildlife Law Enforcement Manual of Operations (5th and final training session, 3rd quarter, 2015) and the Orientation-Seminar on National & International Policies on Ivory and Wildlife Trade (two sessions completed for 2015).
The DENR-BMB has also revived its "airport campaign" initiated in 2010 in an attempt to broaden the knowledge of and gain more active support in curbing illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife products from airport authorities, airline companies, courier service providers and other entities operating within major airports. The "airport campaign" will run for three years (2015-2017) alongside with the "seaport campaign" from 2016-2018. The 2015 leg of the "airport campaign" started last 30 June 2015 with an orientation-seminar on national and international policies governing wildlife and wildlife products for authorities from both government agencies and private entities operating within the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Workshop-Training on Environmental Crimes in Partnership with U.S. DOJ/OPDAT
The US Department of Justice, Criminal Division’s Office of the Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (US DOJ/OPDAT), in partnership with various Philippine government offices and members of the academe, has conducted a series of workshops intended primarily to provide an overview on Environmental Crimes and impart basic training for rookie investigators and prosecutors; and to better equip more experienced investigators and prosecutors with knowledge and skills in building up solid environmental crimes cases to ensure conviction. Further, it provided a venue for the representatives from the academic sector to incite interest and gain a better understanding of the impact of transnational crimes—particularly Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Environmental Crimes.
As of late, this program which sought for the possible inclusion of transnational crimes in the university curriculum of certain degrees has been in its trial phase in selected Criminology colleges and selected universities in the Philippines. This pilot run focused mainly on Trafficking in Persons and Environmental Crime, and would hopefully involve other transnational crime areas in the near future. This development is a breakthrough in fostering better involvement of the civil society in the campaign against transnational crimes.
Some of the U.S. DOJ/OPDAT’s partners include the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime (PCTC), the Department of Justice’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), the Philippine Department of Justice’s National Prosecution Service (NPS) and with the participation of the Philippine Society of Criminologists and Criminal Justice Professionals, Inc, (PSCCJP).
- Regional Workshop on Promoting the Integrity Best Practices to Investigate Wildlife and Timber Trafficking (July 27-28 2015| Hanoi, Vietnam)
The activity was organized by UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and its partners; and was funded by the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau (U.S. State Department) and the Kingdom of Norway. It was designed to promote dialogue and exchange of ideas amongst the Law Enforcement, Anti-Corruption and International communities and the private sector.
The Philippine delegation, for their part, highlighted the need for grass-roots advocacy, increased information sharing on wildlife and forest crime at the national and international level; and pointed out the usefulness of criminal information (e.g. perpetrator names and company names) to help the private sector ensure clean supply chains.
The output for the group discussions was used to come up with a draft of an Integrity Checklist, which is intended to become a valuable tool for governments to help change the criminal trend of wildlife and forest concerns.
- 10th ASEAN-Wildlife Enforcement Network (WEN) and 11th ASEAN Experts Group on CITES (AEG-CITES) Meetings
The DENR, through BMB, participated in two ASEAN regional meetings: the 10th ASEAN-Wildlife Enforcement Network (WEN) and 11th ASEAN Experts Group on CITES (AEG-CITES) Meetings which were held back-to-back last 5-6 May and 7-8 May 2015 in Brunei Darussalam. The ASEAN-WEN and AEG-CITES Meetings are regular (annual) events of AMS aimed at: exchanging information on current developments and discussing issues concerning wildlife law enforcement and CITES implementation in each AMS and in the region; and, promoting better coordination and collaboration between and among law enforcement agencies and CITES authorities in the region.
- APEC Workshop on Wildlife Trafficking-Related Customs Best Practices
The BMB also participated in the APEC Workshop on Wildlife Trafficking-Related Customs Best Practices last 21-23 August 2015 in Cebu City. The workshop was attended by officials from wildlife authorities, customs and law enforcement agencies from the 21 APEC member-countries. One of the counter-measures identified in the workshop to combat illegal wildlife trade was to strengthen the customs and borders security practices through technical training to narrow gaps in wildlife inspection and identification, the targeting of suspicious persons, searches and seizures, evidence handling and investigative techniques.
- Anti-Corruption and Transparency (ACT)-APEC Pathfinder Dialogue II on Combatting Corruption and Illicit Trade
The DENR-BMB participated as well in the “Anti-Corruption and Transparency (ACT)-APEC Pathfinder Dialogue II on Combatting Corruption and Illicit Trade” last 25 August 2015 in Cebu City. This was held in association with the Third Senior Officials Meeting (SOM3). It was attended by representatives from the civil society and officials from APEC member economies, including members of the Anti-Corruption and Transparency Experts Working Group (ACT) and the Experts Group on Illegal Logging and Trade (EGILAT).