The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Prosecution Service (NPS) of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Philippines have partnered to address environmental law violations and safeguard the nation’s natural resources.

Through the Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Oceans, and Landscapes (SIBOL) project, USAID signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NPS on June 13. The objective is to enhance the prosecution of offenses related to natural resource management and biodiversity conservation.

Under this partnership, the DOJ-NPS and SIBOL, represented by RTI International, will collaborate to provide specialized training for prosecutors dealing with protected areas, fisheries, maritime domains, forestry and forest lands, and wildlife conservation. SIBOL will contribute by developing additional e-learning materials and self-paced training modules to enhance the prosecutors’ skills. The DOJ will work closely with the project to implement training activities, fostering a comprehensive approach to addressing environmental crimes.

DOJ Undersecretary for the National Prosecution Service, Atty. Jesse Hermogenes T. Andres, expressed that the MOU signifies the commitment of the DOJ-NPS to effectively implement environmental laws, in line with the protective principles enshrined in the Philippine constitution.

Andres added that by strengthening the competence of prosecutors in investigating and prosecuting environmental offenses, the aim is to promote a balanced and healthy ecological environment for present and future generations of Filipinos.

According to USAID, illegal wildlife trade in the Philippines poses a significant threat to the country’s biodiversity and natural resources, with an estimated annual value of around P50 billion ($894 million) based on confiscation records from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Biodiversity Management Bureau.

This includes the market value of wildlife and its resources, ecological impact, habitat destruction resulting from poaching, and potential economic losses from ecotourism. Additionally, illegal fishing, which accounted for 27% to 40% of the total fish caught in the Philippines in 2019, equivalent to approximately P62 billion ($1.1 billion) annually, continues to be a pressing concern.

Recognizing the urgency of addressing these challenges, USAID is actively supporting the Philippine government’s efforts to strengthen its capacity in responding to environmental crimes.

“Illegal wildlife crime and the destruction of a country’s biodiversity and natural resources remain pressing concerns in need of tangible solutions. USAID supports the Philippine government in its goal of strengthening its capacity to respond to these challenges by providing capacity development to prosecutors and law enforcement personnel who have an important role in preventing violations and bringing perpetrators of environmental crimes to justice,” said USAID Philippines Environment Office Deputy Director Thomas Kaluzny.

By providing capacity development initiatives to prosecutors and law enforcement personnel, USAID aims to empower them to effectively prevent violations and bring perpetrators of environmental offenses to justice.

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