The US government donated three evidence containers worth P1.6 million to help the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) strengthen its capacity to properly store confiscated contraband and evidence in order to prosecute wildlife offenders and persons committing environmental crimes.
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Lisa Johnson of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) led the equipment handover at the PCSD headquarters in Puerto Princesa City on January 17.
“INL is strongly committed to doing everything it can to disrupt the criminal networks behind wildlife trafficking. Building our partners’ capacity to investigate and prosecute environmental crimes is a priority for the U.S. government,” said Johnson at the turnover ceremony.
Niño Rey Estoya, OIC executive director of the PCSD, thanked the U.S. government for its continued support, noting that the donation would be crucial in ensuring that cases investigated and prosecuted by PCSD teams over the course of several months are not dismissed for technical reasons.
The secured storage units are anticipated to enhance the PCSD’s compliance with chain of custody requirements, thereby increasing the likelihood that evidence will be admissible in court.
According to the Asian Development Bank, the annual value of the global illegal wildlife trade ranges between P548 billion ($10 billion) and P1.26 trillion ($23 billion), making wildlife crime the fourth most lucrative illegal enterprise after narcotics, human trafficking, and arms.
INL’s support for environmental justice in Palawan began in 2019 through a Php 28 million ($500,000) partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to strengthen the institutional capacity of PCSD and its law enforcement partners to combat and prevent environmental crimes.
Globally, INL assists partner governments in assessing, building, reforming, and sustaining competent and legitimate criminal justice systems. It also develops and implements the architecture necessary for cross-border law enforcement cooperation.