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House panel OKs heavier penalties on wildlife abusers

THE House committee on natural resources has approved a proposed new law that seeks to impose heavier penalties on the exploitation and abuse of wildlife in the country.

The proposal, endorsed by the committee chaired by Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., is a consolidation of five bills authored by deputy speaker and Cagayan de Pro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Reps. Josephine Sato of Occidental Mindoro, Juan Miguel Arroyo of Pampanga, Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, and Alfred Vargas of Quezon City.

The consolidated bill calls for the conservation and protection of wildlife resources and their habitats, and imposes penalties for violations.

It would replace Republic Act No. 9147, enacted in 2001 during the administration of Arroyo’s mother, former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“I am happy because of the penalties. We are prescribing longer prison terms and higher fines for those who abuse our wildlife, especially endangered species,” Rodriguez said.

He said the country has a diverse variety of wildlife, including the famous Philippine tarsier, tamaraw and Philippine eagle.

“There are 133 terrestrial mammals, 230 birds, 244 reptiles, and 97 amphibian species, and 120 fishes that can be found only here,” he said.

The House leader stressed that the nation’s flora and fauna and their habitats “should be protected from overexploitation, destruction, fragmentation, culling, poaching, hunting, pollution, and climate change for us and for future generations as well.”

He added that the existing law “has to be updated, improved and strengthened to meet and address the demands and problems we have today.”

Under the consolidated bill, the imposable penalties for serious offenses such as illegal killing of wildlife are imprisonment of 12 years and one day to 20 years and a fine of P200,000 to P2 million.

The minimum punishment for minor infractions are a prison term of one month and one day, plus a fine of P20,000.

Under the existing law, the maximum penalties are imprisonment of six years and one day to 12 years, plus a fine of P100,000 to P2 million.

The lightest penalty is a prison term of 10 days and a P200 fine.

The consolidated bill designates the DENR, Department of Agriculture and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, in the case of Palawan, as implementers of the proposed law.

They would be tasked to issue implementing rules and regulations.