Acting Environment Secretary Jim Sampulna during the project launch on Monday. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy in the Philippines Public Affairs Section Information Office)

An International Consortium on Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit in the Philippines was launched by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC)-Environment Team, with support from the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines’ Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) on Monday.

The project is aimed at analyzing the Philippines’ criminal justice mechanisms and preventive responses for addressing wildlife flora and fauna trafficking with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) leading the charge.

Nearly 40 senior officials from various Philippine government agencies and nongovernment and international organizations attended the launch, including the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS), National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Customs, Philippine National Police-Maritime Group, and the Office of the Special Envoy on Transnational Crime.

In Palawan province, PCSDS was at the frontline in enforcement and shaping environmental laws and regulations.

Acting DENR Secretary Jim Sampulna, in a press statement issued on Wednesday, said the project will help to build capacity to combat crimes, including environmental crimes.

“Wildlife trafficking is a serious crime that is already negatively affecting the world, especially Southeast Asia. By illegally taking wildlife from their natural ecosystems and bringing them to cities for commercial purposes, we are exposing our society to risks that might be uncontrollable,” said Sampulna.

INL Director Kelia Cummins, in a press statement issued on Wednesday, said the toolkit, which has been deployed in 12 countries, has also helped in the development of short-, medium-, and long-term recommendations for impactful action and responses to combat wildlife and forest crime.

“DENR serves not only as a stakeholder for this project, but as a champion for change and process improvement that can enhance the criminal justice system. The presence of so many government agencies here reflects the commitment to, prioritization of, and readiness for working together to fully comprehend and provide solutions to mitigate this type of crime,” said Cummins.

This initiative is part of INL’s Php40 million ($800,000), three-year Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime in Southeast Asia project implemented by the UNODC Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime, which supports key agencies in several countries.