Sánchez: Wildlife trafficking

ONE of the issues that the Non-Timber Forest Product-Task Force tackled in Camiguin Island was the issue on natural resource use rights, especially among indigenous communities who practice their customary laws.

In my case, I have no issue when an indigenous community uses wildlife for their sacred rituals. At a subsistence level, resource extraction is kept to a minimum. It doesn’t make sense to create surpluses or even trade among themselves since almost everyone has access to these resources.

But I draw the line when natural resource use crosses the line to a market economy, where production is not for family or community use but for profits. Commerce with outsiders is the name of the game.

During our discussions, I cited the case of Barangay Calabugao in Bukidnon where I had the privilege of visiting in 2004. The barangay used to be part of the Higaonon tribe’s ancestral domain. When the community got connected to the national grid, however, Calabugaoan residents sold their land rights to outsiders so they can buy TVs, videokes, cellphones, and other trappings of modern life that use electricity.

Now the Higaonons transferred their residences to Mintapod, part of their hunting grounds. I wonder what would happen to community life when Mintapod gets connected soon to the national grid. Would they get connected to national greed as well?

Recently, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office arrested a vendor selling wildlife by-products at the Panaad Park during the Panaad Festival opening.

Taken into custody was Armando Cárlos, of Compania Street, Molo, Iloilo City, for displaying by-products of endangered species of wildlife and for selling them to visitors and walk-in customers who are sold into ethnic chic.

Cárlos sold tribal crafts made from skulls, horn, beak and head of endangered species of deer, hornbill, crocodile and monkeys. It seems Cárlos bought the NTFPs from mountain dwellers. He improved on the tribals’ craftsmanship and sold them at P 1,500 to P 2,500 each.

CENRO-Bacolod arrested Cárlos for violating letter f, Section 27 of Republic Act No. 9147, otherwise known as the Wildlife Protection and Conservation Act of 2001 for transporting, selling and possessing wildlife, its derivatives and by-products.

Another poached wildlife is the water monitor lizard, otherwise known by its common name bayawak. It has been years since I last saw bayawaks being sold in downtown Bacolod or in remote mountain tagbos (weekly markets). Either DENR has been successfully arresting bayawak poachers, or worse, the creature has been hunted to extinction.

At the national level, the Philippines loses P9 million yearly due to the illegal trade of wildlife species, based on the computed value of confiscated wildlife species.

The Philippines is considered as one of the 25 countries tagged as biodiversity hot spots, mainly through Mindanao leading to Metro Manila.

At a regional level, Southeast Asia, the illegal wildlife trade is pegged at $8 billion to $10 billion every year.

One of the premium NTFPs are Palawan mynah birds—what we call in Negros as sal-ings—that are sold in the cities to be used as exotic pets. For some strange reason, humans love animals who can mimic human speech.

On a grander scale, wildlife trade or poaching is the world’s third largest industry, “worth billions of dollars,” next to illegal drugs and trafficking of weapons, says Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, director of the DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau.

I congratulate Forester Rosendo López assisted by Forest Ranger Rolando Estil for a job well done on the arrest of a wildlife poacher.

Please email comments to bqsanc@yahoo.com
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