Fighting wildlife trafficking, environmental crime in Palawan

US Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary Lisa Johnson joins PCSD Acting Executive Director Nño Rey Estoya at the turnover of equipment for evidence storage to support environmental cases.

The Philippines on Tuesday received three evidence containers amounting to at least P1.6 million from the government of the United States.

In a statement, the US said the donation aims to strengthen the capacity of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development to properly retain confiscated contraband and evidence presented in the prosecution of wildlife traffickers and persons engaging in environmental crime.

US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Lisa Johnson led the handover ceremony of the equipment at the PCSD headquarters in Puerto Princesa City.

Johnson stressed that the INL is strongly committed to dismantling the criminal networks behind wildlife trafficking.

“Building our partners’ capacity to investigate and prosecute environmental crimes is a priority for the US government,” she said.

PCSD Executive Director Niño Rey Estoya, representing the Philippine government, expressed gratitude to the US government for its continued support.

Estoya noted that the donation would be critical in ensuring that cases PCSD teams investigate and prosecute over several months are not dismissed for technical reasons.

The secured storage units are expected to improve the PCSD’s adherence to the chain of custody requirements, making evidence more likely to be admissible in court.

According to the Asian Development Bank, the value of the global illegal wildlife trade is estimated at between P548 billion to P1.26 trillion per year, making wildlife crime the fourth most lucrative illegal business after narcotics, human trafficking, and arms.

Established in 1978, the INL has been supporting environmental justice in Palawan since 2019 through a P28-million partnership with the US 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,” the US statement said.

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