Importation of “exotic” species to go through the “eye of the needle”

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Importing agarwood-producing species that are “exotic” is easier said than done, especially if it’s for commercial purposes, an official with the Bureau of Biodiversity Management (BMB) said. ) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). .

Generally, the government does not allow the importation of exotic species and, if so, requires a strict regulatory process.

“It’s not the same when you import an endemic species, which is much easier,” said Theresa M. Tenazas, an attorney and head of the OCI division of DENR’s wildlife resources division. BMB.

Not all Aquilaria species are endemic to the Philippines and those that are not endemic or “exotic” will have to pass the proverbial “eye of the needle” to gain DENR-BMB approval, according to Tenazas.

Tenazas was reacting to a BusinessMirror report citing the import of Aquilaria Mallacensis by Iba Botanicals Inc. for commercial propagation.

Iba Botanicals has become the first company to obtain a “Wildlife Cultivation Permit” (WCP) for the commercial propagation in the country of Aquilaria Mallacensis, which produces premium agarwood or softwood heartwood , the most expensive forest product in the world.

“Planting endemic species and re-importing them to the Philippines will not cause problems compared to importing exotic Aquilaria species,” she said.

Citing the case of importation of Aquilaria Mallacensis, Tenazas said those who applied for import permits, for marketing purposes, will be easily granted by the DENR-BMB as it is endemic to the Philippines, which means that there is no danger of introducing a potentially invasive species. species likely to cause loss of biodiversity.

But not everyone can just import and plant any tree species if they want to market it later.

For marketing purposes, the importer must have a WCP so that when the time comes to sell them locally or internationally, they can show proof of the legal source of their product or by-product.

Besides the DENR-BMB, an importer of plants or animal species for commercial purposes like animal breeding or plant breeding will also have to go through a strict regulatory process imposed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) . On the one hand, the Bureau of Plant Industry ensures that the imported plant is disease-free and must undergo quarantine procedures.

On the part of DENR-BMB, strict regulatory requirements are imposed under Republic Act (RA) 9147 (Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act) and RA 7586 (National Integrated System of Protected Areas, or Nipas, law).

“The general rule is that we don’t really allow the import of exotic species,” Tenazas said.

Such a measure is put in place to prevent the danger posed by the introduction of non-native species into the wild.

According to Tenazas, Article 13 of the Wildlife Law, which relates to the introduction of exotic wild animals, states that “no exotic species shall be introduced into the country without first obtaining permission from the Secretary or authorized representative”.

The law added: “Under no circumstances will alien species be introduced into the protected areas covered by RA 7586 and Critical Habitats under Section 25 hereof.”

The provision also stipulates that in cases where the introduction is authorized, it must be subject to an environmental impact study, focusing on the bioecology, socio-economic and related aspects of the area where the species will be introduced.

Finally, it specifies that the promoter will also be required to obtain the prior informed consent of local actors.

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