ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity lauds winners of UN’s Environmental Enforcement Awards
QUEZON CITY, Feb. 20 (PIA) — The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) has lauded the winners of the 5th Environmental Enforcement Awards, which were conferred by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on government officials and teams that have excelled in enforcing laws against environmental crimes, such as illegal wildlife trafficking.
Illegal wildlife trafficking is reported as one of the leading drivers of biodiversity loss and destruction of habitats in the ASEAN region. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), wildlife and forest crime in the East Asia and Pacific region is generating around USD 19.5 billion every year, making it a ‘lucrative business’ that is often hard to detect.
In 2020, government institutions and officials from the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia successfully completed investigations and seizure operations against notorious wildlife traders, as well as illegal waste smuggling.
Under the Impact Category, the Philippines Operation Group on Ivory and the Illegal Wildlife Trade (POGI) was recognized after it arrested a number of illegal traders and recovered 13 rare animals in a single operation.
At the same time, the Operasi Bersepadu Khazanah taskforce in Malaysia was also cited for arresting “87 wildlife criminals, destroying 460 wire snares, with total seizure amounting to MYR 2.7 million (USD 670,000).”
Meanwhile, John Simon, district customs collector of the Philippines Bureau of Customs was given an award under the Impact and Integrity category for busting an illegal waste smuggling operation, seizing 10,000 tons of illegal waste and initiating legal proceedings against the smugglers, and to repatriate the waste back to the country of origin.
UNEP likewise recognized inter-agency and bilateral collaborations, such as the efforts of the Enforcement Division, Department of Environment, Malaysia, which worked closely with the authorities from the United Kingdom to repatriate 42 containers of smuggled plastic waste; and Indonesia’s Police Chief Commissioner Adi Karya Tobing, Police Commissioner Sugeng Irianto, and Rasio Ridho Sani, Director General for Law Enforcement, who worked with Dutch authorities to crack down a large-scale wildlife network that trafficks body parts of endangered species.
“These well-deserved awards recognising efforts of the ASEAN Member States in stemming the illegal wildlife trade in the region, as well as in curbing environmental waste pollution contribute to the protection and conservation of vital wildlife species,” said ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim.
“In light of the ongoing global crisis, addressing illegal wildlife trade and other environmental crimes will contribute significantly to keeping our forests healthy, and securing the lives of more than 650 million people in the ASEAN that depend on these. The commendations come at an opportune time as the World celebrates this year’s Wildlife Day, on 3 March, under the theme ‘Forest and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet’,” she said.
Lim added that the awardees have also shown that regional collaboration and international cooperation among the various agencies and the public can make a difference in law enforcement.
“Every action that protects species and strengthens collaboration benefits biodiversity and the people. The awardees embody success stories worthy of being emulated in the region,” she said.
Other recipients of the 5th Environmental Enforcement Awards are Nepal’s Sudarshan Panthee and Birendra Singh Johari; and India’s Sashimita Lenka, Divisional Forest Officer and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.
The annual award is presented by the UNEP in partnership with the UN Development Programme, the UNDOC, INTERPOL, the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the World Customs Organization. (PIA NCR)