Advocates for clean air on Thursday made an urgent appeal to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) not to push through with the burning of five tons of confiscated elephant tusks on June 21.
In e-mails to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) Director Theresa Mundita Lim, more than 30 clean air groups led by the EcoWaste Coalition asked the officials to drop the idea.
“Even if the intent is only to conduct a ‘ceremonial burning,’ we remain anxious as this will likely send a confusing message to the general public from the environmental authorities that open burning is acceptable,” the groups said in the letters.
“A photo showing the environment secretary setting a pile of tusks on fire may be interpreted as a tacit endorsement that ‘open burning is OK,’” they added.
The DENR announced on Sunday it would destroy around five tons of elephant tusks seized from smugglers, traders and others estimated to be worth $10 million, or roughly P420 million, in support of the global effort to end the illegal trade in wildlife species.
Paje said the tusks would be crushed using a road roller and burned in front of foreign experts and anti-ivory trade advocates at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City on June 21.
“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 the illegal wildlife trade,” Paje said in a statement.
But the clean air advocates think otherwise.
The president of Partnership for Clean Air, Rene Pineda, said: “It still is setting a bad, notwithstanding illegal, example. The act of burning waste no matter how small, granting it is just ceremonial, does not legitimize it. And that’s the underlying intent of the law, which the implementer must uphold.”
Burning the tusks, the environmentalists said, would cause emissions and would violate Republic Act No. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and RA 8749, the Clean Air Act.—DJ Yap