The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) recently trained Philippine government partners in underwater crime scene investigation and law enforcement. This program is part of USAID’s Project SIBOL (Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Oceans, and Landscapes).
According to the U.S. Embassy, the training was focused on responses to environmental crime scenarios and law enforcement issues such as coral reef crime scene investigation, marine wildlife crime forensics, oil spills, and marine and coastal pollution.
Twenty-seven representatives from Philippine agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) attended the training program.
With the help of international experts, participants were taught proper procedures and practices when dealing with environmental crime scenarios such as blast fishing, poaching and vessel grounding which causes the destruction of coral reefs. The program befits the country’s goals of reducing the threats against biodiversity and endangered species, and well as eradicating crimes against wildlife.
“The rich bounty that the Philippines is blessed with comes with a responsibility of conserving these resources in a way that is sustainable and regenerative,” said USAID Acting Environment Office director John Piggot.
This is in line with the growing concerns about illegal fishing in the Philippines. A 2020 joint report by USAID and BFAR revealed that 27 to 40% of fish caught in the Philippine seas are illegal, amounting to P62 billion ($1.3 billion) every year.
“We hope that this activity will lead to increased cooperation among enforcement agencies on coral reef-related cases, enhancement of existing local training modules on reef protection, and development of local policy and protocols on coral reef-related investigations,” Piggot said in a release. —Regina Adolfo