The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-led Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade, or Task Force POGI, has been adjudged as a winner in the Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards given by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) recently.
Chaired by Undersecretary Atty. Ernesto D. Adobo. Jr., the interagency Task Force POGI is a composite team of wildlife enforcers from various agencies, including DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Bureau of Customs, and DENR-National Capital Region.
The DENR-led task force won in the 5th Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards under Impact Category on February 17, 2021.
The award is given to individuals and/or government organizations or teams that demonstrate excellence and outstanding leadership in enforcement of national laws to combat transboundary environmental crime.
This year, UNEP gave awards to groups or organizations who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in one or more of the following categories: collaboration; impact; innovation; integrity; and gender leadership.
Task Force POGI was one of the eight winners mainly for its excellent collaboration and coordination framework among different enforcement agencies, thus enhancing the impact of operations against illegal trade in wildlife.
In a news statement, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu cited the Task Force for bagging the prestigious award as “a testimony of the continuing commitment of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR] on upholding its mandate of protecting, conserving, and managing the environment and natural resources for the present and future generations.”
“This serves as another feather on the cap of the agency on environmental law enforcement,” the DENR chief said.
During the nomination period from June 2019 to May 2020, the task force has successfully apprehended high profile traffickers and confiscated illegally trafficked goods.
The key highlight was in August 2019 when the task force arrested Sharon Jonjon Lim, a notorious online wildlife trader who had eluded authorities for about five years, and recovered from him 13 rare animals worth around $5,000, or around P250,000.
Adobo, who is also the DENR Undersecretary for Legal, Administration, Human Resources and Legislative Affairs, received the award in a virtual ceremony.
“We are humbled and deeply grateful that our collective efforts and initiatives in combating environmental crimes, particularly crimes against wildlife, are recognized by no less than international experts from the United Nations and its partner agencies,” Adobo said in his acceptance message.
This year’s Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards, with the theme “Fighting transboundary environmental crime,” was also in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, International Criminal Police Organization, and World Customs Organization.