Philippines destroy Dh36m worth elephant tusks

June 21 event in support of global campaign to stop illegal ivory trade

The Philippines will crush and burn about five tonnes of seized elephant tusks worth 420 million pesos (Dh36.5m), in support for the global campaign to stop the illegal trade of wildlife species.

“Our decision to destroy these ivory tusks that entered the country illegally is to show to the whole world that the Philippines will not tolerate illegal wildlife trade,” Environment Secretary Ramon Paje Jr said in a statement over the weekend.

He stressed that the tusks will be crushed by a steam roller and then burned on June 21 at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Centre (NAPWC), as part of the celebration of environment month.

DENR, or Department of Environemtn and Natural Resources, said the ivory tusks, stored at the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), were intercepted by customs officials since 2009 in separate operations across the Philippines.

The 1989 Geneva Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of flora and fauna, to which the Philippines is a signatory, bans the ivory trade, which has been the cause of a massive decline in elephant populations in Africa.

Foreign experts and advocates of anti-ivory trade are expected to join local officials from the National Bureau of Investigation, Customs Bureau, National Intelligence Co-ordinating Agency and Philippine National Police at the crush-and-burn event, which falls under PAWB as mandated by the Wildlife Resource Conservation and Protection Act.

The illegal trade of elephant tusks in and through the Philippines has been given a spotlight since National Geographic investigative journalist and former Washington-based international lawyer Bryan Cristy reported about it in 2012.

Cristy is expected to be in Manila to give a presentation on the illegal trade on elephant tusks during the June 21 event.

In 1997, the Philippines was among four economies, including Hong Kong, Malaysia and Vietnam, listed as a trade route and transit site of the illegal ivory trade. The countries of destination were China and Thailand while the sources were Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.

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