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“We Can Only Do So Much” - DENR on Wildlife Trade

Photo screen-grabbed from DENR presentation on Biodiversity

"We can only do so much..." It was an excuse coming from Dr. Mundita Lim when we made some reactions on the current status of the illegal trade/ exploitation of Philippine wildlife.

During the Green Bloggers Meet Up, Dr. Lim showed us the vast decline in the numbers of endemic species that can be found in the natural habitat. In her presentation on Biodiversity, she have shown us a lot of flora and fauna being poached, killed or sold in the black market, and patronized by locals or foreigners or being shipped to other countries like China.

It was a disheartening truth to know that for the longest time of combating the problem on illegal trade of wildlife, still more plants and animals are still being exploited by human population. It was emphasized during the meeting that there is an existing law for this but there seems to be a problem in terms of WILLFUL implementation. In my experience as environmental specialist, the means of mobilization is retarded by lack of resources and weak political will or none at all to abate and eliminate or at least minimize the incidence of wildlife trade in the Philippines.

For me, this government office holds only onto the name of the Bureau as the arm of the state to protect its resources but has a result far beyond what is expected from them. It must also be understood that the bureau is an office that can only do so much if there is a weak participation of the LGUs and the communities. There are so much factors that have been identified in various researches and studies conducted that hinder in attaining the objectives of DENR but most of the recommendations simply remain on paper.

Raising the awareness on this, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources partnered with “Green Bloggers” to promote the initiative of the government agency on its effort to disseminate the information on Philippine Wildlife Conservation.  

Though during the blog talk, it could be sensed that not everyone were engaged in this kind of topic or the appreciation is just skin deep. The approach was a little technical for non-science listeners and the message was just hard to grasp if not explained in layman’s term.

Since it was a blog talk, we had the opportunity to raise and inform the rest of the audiences of the dilemma of most travel writers and bloggers on exposing new places, and other important finds, resulting to the exposure of various resources specially the wildlife. It was a 'damn if you do and damn if you don’t' scenario.

Some bloggers dwell on the reason of exposing new “destination of interest" because it could help boost the local tourism industry and would lead to socioeconomic growth of the area, which is true. Some would reason that it could promote alternative destination to decongest the overcrowded commercial tourist spots in the Philippines, allowing them to at least recover from environmental stresses brought about by human presence. Ever heard of the term “carrying capacity”? Well, you might want to check Boracay as an example of DISREGARDING this term.

In most cases, places that are exposed to the adventurous public unveil some unreported or at least unprotected wildlife, resulting to poaching, uncontrolled harvest of natural resources and illegal trade. I, for one, have witnessed this scenario back in Mindanao, that when “explorers” have discovered something new, they will excitingly write about it and share it on the social media, unknowingly that there are poachers waiting for this kind of report, locating their next source of “income”.

It is a hurting truth, that even the local agency like the DENR specifically PAMB is always missing in action to act on this. Very seldom that we will hear actions from “them” unless the issue have become sensationalized through the media. Remember LOLONG? The local community decided to put him in a concrete cage for commercial purposes than amplify the protection of the whole habitat. Well, you've heard the end of that story, of course HE DIED and the famous Bunawan, Agusan del Sur is back to “stone age” after the longest crocodile in captivity have just vanished after a few months.

I wonder what happened to the advocacy on “sustainability” and where did DENR stand on this issue before.  I guess the word did not reach Bunawan at all. Because if there was an intervention, that scenario would unlikely to happen in the first place. The truth is, I was so sad for the people of Bunawan for a false hope of supposedly the 'means' to make their lives a little better.

I am not playing a blame game here but I hope that in the next administration, the leading agency could correct and start working in the transfer of information, reaching and training the local leaders and the local communities. Most of the time I could only hear rave reports on how beautiful a place is and how bountiful the natural resources are through academic symposia but solid actions are rarely put in place.

I guess, it is time that the Filipinos become more conscious on the effect of their ill actions towards the environment. I also pray that the eco-tourism industry in the Philippines becomes a norm promoting practices that could alleviate the local economy. And when I say eco-tourism, the operators are locals and not foreign capitalists who applied to put up a business in the newly exposed areas, mostly being sided by people sitting on power in exchange of some sort of 'favor'.

And for me, I don’t want to put a shout out to “SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT” but rather “Save your children and your children’s children”.  Let this Environment Month be fruitful and MABUHAY ANG MGA MAGBABAGONG PILIPINO at 'KAPARUSAHAN' SA MGA MAGPAPABAYA SA GOBYERNO!

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