PHL environmental protection receives UN recognition

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PNP-MG Award
General Noel Lazaros Vargus receives an award on behalf of the Philippine National Police, Maritime Group, for protecting the natural resources of the Philippines [via Facebook]

Two Philippine enforcement organizations and three Filipino enforcement officers are among the first recipients of the first Asia Environmental Enforcement Award (AEEA) given by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Philippines received 3 of the 5 individual awards given, and 2 of the 8 organization awards.

The Philippine National Police Maritime Group (PNP-MG) received the achievement award from the UN with a citation of more than 1,500 operations against fisheries, forestry, and wildlife laws violations. The police operations led to 9,000 arrests and the collection of more than US $300,000 in fines.

Police Superintendent Osmundo Salibo, Chief of the Maritime Group Special Boat Unit, was recognized by the UNEP for his leading role in the confiscation of large amounts of endangered wildlife including 900 turtles and more than 9,000 marine turtle eggs.

Police Senior Superintendent Jonathan Ablang also of the PNP-MG was cited for his role in promoting the establishment of Marine Protected Areas with the recruitment and training of 679 local community Marine Protected Area guards. Ablang was also recognized for setting up the SMS public hotline 700-32569 (700DALOY for Dedicated Alert Lines for Ocean Biodiversity) that led to arrest of thousands of suspects of illegal fishing and pollution.

The Environmental Protection Unit of the Enforcement and Security Service (EPU-ESS) at the Bureau of Customs was the second Philippine organization awarded and recognized for the seizure of 90 container vans that held illegally transported chemicals, chemical products, and waste materials.

Major Nicomedes Enad, Chief/Special Police Major of the EPU-ESS, was given recognition for initiating the establishment of the unit in combating smuggling and illegal trade of chemicals and wildlife. Enad’s operations led to the seizure of shipments violating environmental laws and regulations in the Philippines.

In the statement given by PNP officer-in-charge General Leonardo Espina, he congratulated the Maritime Group for representing the Philippines in an exceptional award bestowed by UN.

“They did not only bring home honors for themselves and the PNP, but for the country as well.” Espina told media.

The UNEP AEEA was awarded in ceremonies held in Thailand last May to seven nations, including the Philippines, for outstanding roles in environmental protection with the seizure of illegal shipments valued at US$69 million, nearly 300,000 tons of hazardous wastes, and protected wildlife. These crime investigations have reportedly led to about US$40 million in fines and over US$100 million in frozen assets.

“Environment crime undermines sustainable development. It is not only a threat to species, to habitats and to ecosystems, but also to human health, livelihoods and national economies. Enforcement action and efforts need to be recognized and awarded,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director and United Nations Under-Secretary-General who opened the award ceremony.

The AEEA is a joint initiative of UNEP and Freeland, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to encourage countries, organizations and individuals in the region to combat environmental crime and to reward excellence in enforcement.

The AEEA ceremony was held back-to-back with the Asia-Pacific Roundtable on Environmental Rule of Law for Sustainable Development and the First Forum of Ministers and Environment Authorities of Asia Pacific.  

Other AEEA recipients of the award were from the countries of Cambodia, Thailand, China, Tonga, Vietnam, and India.

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