AFFIRMING her commitment to fighting illegal wildlife trade, Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine “Nene” Y. Ramirez-Sato has joined the Ivory Alliance 2024, a high-level coalition of international leaders and influencers in the fight against the ivory trade.
Sato formally took her oath as a member during the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference 2018 held last October 11 and 12 at the Evolution, Battersea Park in London, where she delivered the Philippine statement as head of the delegation.
With that, Sato became a pioneer member and the first Filipino leader to become a member of the London-based Ivory Alliance 2024.
The other Ivory Alliance political members are: Michael Gove, UK Environment Secretary, Chairman; Rt Hon Helen Clark, former UN Development Programme Administrator and New Zealand Prime Minister; Hon Elizabeth Quat, Member of the Legislative Council, Hong Kong; Professor Ephraim Kamuntu, Honourable Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Uganda; and Toni Atkins, California Senate President pro Tempore Leader, US Govt
Some of the noted Ivory Alliance supporters include Alexandra Bounxouei – musician and performer from Laos, Bella Lack, a youth blogger for Born Free Foundation; and Adrian Pang – actor from Singapore
Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, feted the IVA members at a reception dinner held on Oct 10 at the St James Palace in London.
“The Philippines is one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world but also one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots because of the various threats that include illegal wildlife trade. It is no longer just an environmental crime, it is a transnational crime that must be stopped along with illegal drugs, arms, and human trafficking,” said Sato.
Sato was invited by the Alliance’s chairman, Secretary of State Michael Gove of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs of the United Kingdom, to take part in the global effort to combat the illegal wildlife trade, particularly activities that target elephants for their tusks.
According to Gove, African elephant numbers have declined from 1.3 million in 1979 to 415,000 today, with 20,000 a year still being illegally-slaughtered due to the huge ivory demand.
The alliance targets to reduce the illegal killing of African elephants for ivory by at least one-third continent-wide by 2020, and two thirds by 2024 – a decade on from the landmark London Declaration on the Illegal Wildlife Trade.
The Philippines is considered a transshipment point of wildlife trafficking, including the precious elephant tusks.
A former Governor of Occidental Mindoro, a biodiversity-rich province in MIMAROP, Sato is pushing for stronger protection measures for threatened wildlife in the Philippines.
The lady lawmaker is the principal author bill in the House of Representatives of Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act which increased the number of Protected Areas in the Philippines that are backed with legislation from 13 to 107, subsequently expanding the total covered by at least 3.5 million hectares or 10 percent of the country’s total land area.
An environmental advocate, Sato has filed House Bill (HB) No. 8320 entitled “An Act Providing For A Revised Wildlife Resources Conservation And Protection Act, Appropriating Funds Therefor And For Other Purposes” which aims to revise and update Republic Act 9147 or the Philippine Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.
The Philippines has created the DENR-led Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade, also known as Task Force POGI, which has led to the confiscation of a significant haul of ivory in the past. The Philippines, through the DENR, was also the first country to destroy confiscated ivory which it later used to construct a monument in memory of the fallen elephants.
In affirming her commitment to helping combat ivory trade, Sato vowed to work closely with concerned national government agencies and various law-enforcement units to further tighten watch against unscrupulous traders engaging in the illegal wildlife trade in the Philippines.