LAS PINAS CITY – Sen. Cynthia Villar described a “welcome development” the World Health Organization’s call to stop the sale of live wild animals in food markets to prevent the emergence of new diseases like Covid-19.

Villar, who chairs both the Senate committees on agriculture and food, and on environment, said she has repeatedly warned of chronic disease transmission from wild animals.

She said researches indicated that the constant exploitation of wild fauna and their habitats had raised the risk of zoonotic disease transmission or the transmission of disease from animals to human.

WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib related that the WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said wild animals were the source of most emerging infectious diseases in humans and recommended measures to reduce the potential risk.

“Covid-19 has brought new attention to this threat, given the magnitude of its consequences,” stressed Chaib.

Villar said she hopes the Philippine government and other nations would heed the call of WHO to avert emerging infectious diseases like the new coronavirus.

“As precaution, I hope all concerned government agencies will impose a ban on the catching and sale of wild animals in local markets to avert a potential recurrence of a similar Covid-19 pandemic,” said Villar.

She said there should be tough measures for the strict enforcement of this prohibition to guarantee wild animals, which can be the source of virus, would no longer find their way to the markets for human consumption.

“We want to protect our people and the world from newviruses that could originate from wild animals and transmitted to humans like this coronavirus, which has affected and claimed the lives of millions of people worldwide,” said Villar.

The call to ban sale of wild animals runs parallel to the objective of Sen. Villar when she filed last month the Senate Bill No. 2078 or the “Revised Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2021,” amending the 20-year-old RA No. 9147. The bill seeks to strengthen the wildlife conservation and protection mechanism in our country as the incidence of wildlife exploitation has evolved and grown, violators have become more equipped, organized, and syndicated or with international connections.

WHO, OIE snd UNEP recalled that some of the earliest known cases of Covid-19 had links to a wholesale traditional food market in Wuhan, China. They noted that majority of the initial patients were stall owners, market employees or regular visitors to the Wuhan market.

The agencies related at samples from the Wuhan market suggested that it might be the source of the coronavirus pandemic’s outbreak. They also raised the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes Covid-19 disease — originated in wild animals.

Villar, as chairperson of the Senate committee on environment, likewise cited the need to be more vigilant against biodiversity loss, wildlife protection and conservation of their habitats. She said the Philippines belongs to the world’s biodiversity hotspots or those areas experiencing high rates of habitat loss.