Environmentalists hit ceremonial burning of confiscated ivory tusks

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QUEZON City, June 13, 2013—Environmentalists today called on authorities to stop the ceremonial burning of confiscated elephant tusks, saying the act would send a wrong message to the public.

Although they fully support the global effort to stop the illegal wildlife trade, the groups said, burning the seized ivory tusks is not acceptable due to its environmental impact.

“Even if the intent is only to conduct ‘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 environmentalists said in an e-mail sent to the DENR secretary and Wildlife director Theresa Mundita Lim.

Burning the tusks, the environmentalists reminded, will cause emissions and will be in violation of R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and R.A. 8749, the Clean Air Act.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to do a “ceremonial burning of about 5 tons of confiscated tusks on June 21 at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center (NAPCW) in Quezon City to highlight the celebration of Environment Month.

But the groups said instead of burning, the tusks can be crushed and pulverized and “then buried [these] for composting at an appropriate site within the NAPWC.”

“The eco-burial site can serve as a lasting memorial to our country’s commitment to ending illegal wildlife trade and to poaching that is mercilessly killing the elephants,” they said.

“It will be fitting to install a  marker at the site made out of combined cement and crushed tusks in memory of the murdered elephants,” they added.

They argued that a photo showing Paje setting a pile of tusks on fire may be interpreted by the public as a tacit endorsement that “open burning is okay”.

Such will run contrary to the DENR’s program of “preventing emissions from the open burning of agricultural and municipal solid waste,” that is being implemented with financial assistance from the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank, the coalition said.

“We trust that Sec. Paje and Dir. Lim will heed our earnest appeal and ensure that the people’s right to breathe clean air will not be relegated as the government meets its international obligations to put a stop to illegal wildlife trade,” said Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste Coalition’s acting National Coordinator.

The multi-sectoral groups of clean air advocates, zero waste practitioners and environmental lawyers include the EcoWaste Coalition, Alaga Lahat, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Animal Kingdom Foundation, Atin’To Development Services, Bangon Kalikasan, Buklod Tao, Cenacle Sisters/JPICC-AMRSP, Citizens’ Organization Concerned with Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Ecological Society of the Philippines, Green Convergence, Greenpeace, Greenresearch, Health Care Without Harm, IPEN, Kinaiyahan Foundation, Krusada sa Kalikasan, Miriam P.E.A.CE., Mother Earth Foundation, November 17 Movement, Partnership for Clean Air, Philippine Animal Welfare Society, Philippine Earth Justice Center, Sibuyan ISLE, Sining Yapak, St Paul de Chartres Health Care Ministry,  Zero Waste Philippines, Elsie Brandes-De Veyra, Dr. Helen Mendoza and environmental lawyers Ron Gutierrez, Amang Mejia, Marlon Manuel, Tony Oposa, Jr. and Gloria Estenzo-Ramos. (CBCPNews)

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