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Philippine green groups slam plan to burn seized ivory

Conservation event will harm environment, they say

Philippine green groups slam plan to burn seized ivory

The government plans to burn five tons of seized ivory (Photo: reporter, Manila

June 13, 2013

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Green groups have today criticized the Philippines government plans to burn five tons of confiscated elephant tusks.

The burning is intended to demonstrate the state's commitment in the fight against the illegal ivory trade. But the groups says it will send the wrong message to the public since burning is environmentally unfriendly.

The government on Tuesday announced it will destroy five tons of confiscated elephant tusks as part of a global campaign to raise awareness against the illegal trade of so-called "blood ivory."

The Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau said the tusks were part of a stockpile of 13.1 tons of Tanzanian elephant ivory seized between 2005 and 2009, which is kept in a government vault.

Theresa Mundita Lim, the bureau's chief, said the plan is to crush the tusks and burn them in front of anti-ivory trade advocates on June 21.

The rest of the seized ivory will remain under lock and key and be used as evidence against illegal traders or as educational materials.

Environmental activists say however that while they support the global effort to stop the illegal wildlife trade, burning the tusks is not the way to do it.

"Burning confiscated tusks goes against the prohibition against the open burning of... solid waste enshrined in two of our major environmental laws," the EcoWaste Coalition said in a letter sent to the country's environment chief today.

"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 environmental authorities that open burning is acceptable," the group said.

It may also "breach the people’s right to breathe clean air which the state recognizes and commits to uphold," the activists said in the letter, adding that crushing the tusks to render them useless to traders is enough.

The Philippines is a signatory to the Geneva-based Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna, which bans the trade of ivory in a bid to stem a drastic decline in elephant numbers.

The convention lists the Philippines among nine countries considered "priority concerns" because it is reportedly a smuggling hub for illegal ivory.

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