Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Season For Burglars

WITH THE RECENT onslaught of monsoon rains, many of us should be aware of the heightened danger of having uninvited guests in our homes. We know too well the possibility of having burglars in our homes during nights of endless rain. We can only prevent incidents of theft by securing our homes before we go to sleep at night.

But unknown to most of us, along with the rainy season comes another form of burglary. We only learn about it with the multiple apprehensions of travelers attempting to ship wildlife from our province and destined, predictably, to the black market for exotic animals in Manila and beyond. The shipments range from the lowly beetle – a known pest for coconut plantation owners – to the beautiful and talkative mynah and blue-naped parrot.

Most of these shipments originate from the southern part of the elongated Palawan mainland – a pattern that coincides with the illegal shipment of live tropical fish from our province. Recently, we have not heard of apprehensions of illegal shipments of live tropical fish. The rainy season could be the reason behind such absence. Mameng and other kinds of marine delicacies are hard to come by during this season.

But this pattern begs the question – could the same fly-by-night organizations of illegal live fish traders be also behind these attempts to ship terrestrial wildlife from the province? Our vigilant NGOs and government agencies have no proof yet that these patterns are merely coincidental. But before we start looking for proof of connections, we should be on the alert simply because there seems to be a rise in the number of attempts to ship terrestrial wildlife from our province.

The pattern of lack of proper documents for shipments is glaring. It could reflect on the lack of knowledge on the part of traders about the provisions controlling the shipment of flora and fauna from Palawan in existing laws such as the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan or RA 7611 and the National Integrated Protected Areas System or NIPAS law. Is the PCSDS running on such a limited budget that the common trader is not aware of laws meant to protect our unique ecosystem? Or are these just signs of a devil-may-care attitude among our traders?

At present, a multitude of wildlife species thrives in our vast tracts of forests. Some of these may be pests like the coconut beetle, while others may not have even been discovered and properly recorded yet. There is simply too vast a cache of wildlife in Palawan, enough for an uninformed individual to think that he or she can get away with trading on these species, unmindful of its possible impact on the future of our ecosystem. After all, what negative effect could the trading of a pest beetle do to an ecosystem that spans the entire mainland of the country’s largest province?

It would take scientists to explain this at the ecological level. But at the moral and civic level, we can simply assert that this is akin to burglary – there is a law that prohibits such shipments from Palawan’s unique ecosystems after all. Flouting the law, no matter how trivial it may appear, has no place in civilized society.

Editorial written by Sergio Pontillas and published in the August 14-20, 2006 issue of Bandillo ng Palawan


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