Environmental Groups Call Out Roque on Patronage of "Captive Animal Entertainment"

This comes after his recent visit to a marine theme park.

PHOTO BY Ocean Adventure, Subic Bay

(SPOT.ph) Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque drew flak after photos of him hanging out with dolphins in Subic, Zambales amid quarantine surfaced. The images, which were first posted by Ocean Adventure's Facebook page, also showed the public official talking to resort staff without a mask and not maintaining physical distance. The public official explained that no quarantine rules were violated. But it looks like this isn't the only cause of ire among people as environmental group Earth Island Institute criticized the secretary's "insensitive flaunting of patronage to marine wildlife captivity."

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PHOTO BY Ocean Adventure, Subic Bay
PHOTO BY Ocean Adventure, Subic Bay
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"There are businesses, most especially small and micro enterprises, that require the much-needed boost and support from government. But instead, Secretary Roque seems to be favoring big businesses that support captive animal entertainment," said Mark Louie Aquino, Earth Island Institute (EII) campaign spokesperson in the Philippines, in a press release on July 2.

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Balyena.org, a non-profit society which conducts research on whales and dolphins in the Philippines, also expressed support for EII's statement, saying that: "Despite all the laws in-place, somehow facilities like [Ocean Adventure] remain operational. The ill-timed visit of a government official during a time like this and all other issues considered, leaves us extremely disappointed."

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According to EII, bottlenose dolphins—similar to what Roque was touching at Ocean Adventure—are included in the list of species protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, in which the Philippines is a signatory. Specifically, Appendix II—where dolphins are included—"lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled." The International Union for Conservation of Nature declared only two species of bottlenose dolphins as endangered on their Red List.

The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 also states that it is "unlawful to fish or take rare, threatened, or endangered species as listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)." The environmental group also claims that five bottlenose dolphins, one sea lion, and one false killer whale have died in the facility in the last 15 years.

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"We must bear in mind that the very reason for the emergence of the global pandemic like COVID-19 is the continued profiteering of companies from wildlife trade and animal captivity," the statement by Aquino concludes.

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