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Murder At Sea

Today, I woke up to a very disturbing headline in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, entitled “Coral Reefs Twice Size of Manila Destroyed”. Last Tuesday, officials from the Bureau of Customs reported that a “reef complex” off the coast of Cotabato Province was obliterated, destroying coral reefs and killing other marine life. In the opening paragraph of the article, “the crime was described as the ‘rape of the ocean’.”

Photo Credits: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Photo Credits: Philippine Daily Inquirer

What are the applicable laws?

  • Section 27(a) of Republic Act No. 9147 entitled “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act” penalizes illegal acts such as “(a) killing and destroying wildlife species…” Section 28 of the same law states that any person found guilty of such illegal act shall be imposed with “(b) imprisonment of four (4) and one (1) day to six (6) years and/or a fine of Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) to Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) if inflicted or undertaken against endangered species.”
  • Section 91 of Republic Act 8550 or the “Fisheries Code of 1998”, outlaws “any person or corporation to gather, possess, sell or export ordinary, precious and semi-precious corals whether in raw or in processed form.” Any person found guilty of such act is penalized with six months to two years imprisonment and a fine from P2,000 to P20,000 or both at the discretion of the court.
  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora prohibits the the collection and harvesting of endangered species such as coral reefs and sea turtles. We are a party to the Convention, and are bound by the same.

My work in the Senate

On numerous occasions on the Senate floor, including budget deliberations/hearings, I have continuously called for the increase in budget allocation to protect our resources. I know that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has actively sought for the same, reverberating the call for more budget for the environment.  Unfortunately, this was a low priority of the previous administration. Perhaps this would serve as a wake up for the current administration.

On my part as a legislator, I have filed and sponsored on the floor a number of bills declaring various areas in the Philippines as protected areas. To name a few, these are the protected area bills which have been enacted into laws:

  • Republic Act No. 9847 
“Mounts Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape (MBSCPL) Act of 2009”
  • Republic Act No. 10067 “Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) Act of 2009”
  • Republic Act No. 9486 or “Central Cebu Protected Landscape Act of 2007″
  • Republic Act No. 9494 or “Mimbilisan Protected Landscape Act of 2007″

Aside from these, I have proposed budget amendments for the protection of areas covered by the aforementioned laws and certain protected areas found in the provinces of Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Bukidnon, and Davao.

One effective model for the protection of both marine resources and forests is to empower the locals thru education and  awareness  programs to protect their own environment. I have been supporting and pushing for more eco-tourism projects as well. This has proven to be successful in pilot projects across the country.

But despite the existence of these laws and international convention, for as long as the demand on our precious marine life remains, these crimes will continue. As a people, we must unite and declare war against these poachers and murders of our marine life. Government authorities must act with haste. It is important that we show our determination in prosecuting these heinous offenses. These criminals must be put behind bars and made to pay for their crimes.

1 comment to Murder At Sea

  • Antonio (Sonny) Belzunce

    Hi Senator

    I am a Filipino born Australian, studied and worked in Australia. I have decided to move back to the Philippines to share my learnings and wisdom with the people. Environmental issues is one of my passion hence this email.

    I am responding to the massive destruction of corals in Cotabato.
    This a copy sent to Senator Ed Angara and Director Mundita Lim PAWB

    From: tbelzunce@msn.com
    To: angara.ed@gmail.com; munditalim@yahoo.com
    CC: grandprince88@gmail.com
    Subject: The destruction of the Country’s Coral Reefs
    Date: Sat, 28 May 2011 20:58:20 +1000

    Dear Senator ED Angara and Director Theresa Mundita Lim

    I have been following this horrible findings earlier this week regarding the bastardization of the preserved natural resources in Cotabato. The most upsetting aspect of this despicable crime is the greediness in aiming for a massive consignment in one shipment showing no respect for the destruction of these natural resources. The Foreign aid that have been focused in Mindanao this last few years seems to have little effect in the development of this areas.

    Senator Ed the policing infrastructure for implementing policies of Bureau of Protected Areas and Wildlife needs to be reviewed. Obviously the community education program regarding preservation and teaching people how precious our natural resources would be an utmost priority. It is the people that normally safeguards the natural resources but somehow in Asia this have been an issue due to segmented community groups with different educational standard or lower values for preservation values.

    Director Lim, we must view that the notion pre World War II the Philippines being the Pearl of the Orient can still be achieved again. I feel that the people of the Philippines that matters, those poor people in areas we feel are unreachable, are the ones if educated can be the expansion of the policing process. The Bureau then creates a monitoring program visiting this communities. I know that it exist in the Visayas but obviously you need more budget and resources to cover all the areas.

    It still hurts me to remember the nakedness of Sierra Madre with no trees on it after coming back after 40 years being away from the Philippines. At this stage there is still no re planting program. The other is Mt Kanlaon attending to environmentalist unconditional complain terms regarding Geothermal Plant but complainant allowing sugar plantation to slowly creep up the mountain.

    I hope the Senate can assist the Bureau of Protected Areas and Wildlife in ensuring that Legislations and Budgets are in placed to secure the welfare of all our natural resources. Also the Senate must ensure that whoever is breaking the environmental laws must be prosecuted accordingly whether it is the President of the Philippines, the riches person or the Archbishop.

    Thank you for your time and attention. I hope you understand my passion regarding this issue.

    Senators

    Threatening a consignee for degradation of the environment, smuggling black corals, is such a slow reaction in relations to the gravity of the offence to the Republic of the Philippines. If this was in any other country, that person would have been arrested and being intensely questioned to divulge the major players in this crime. This highlights the lack of governing infrastructure that deals with crime and corruption. When will the politicians in the Philippines address and measure the effectiveness and efficiencies of governance in the Philippines.

    Yesterday I was told that the courier named a Chinese lady supposed to be the owner. Could you please tell me why the names of suspect are withheld? Are they having some form of concession from justice because of money?

    For the damaged they have done to our natural and preserved resources, someone has to be accountable for it.

    Just reiterating that I am commenting to assist with my personal point of view and hoping that this will at least help with issues in the Philippines.

    Antonio (Sonny) Belzunce

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