UP study on logging ban bared
MANILA, Philippines – A total logging ban would only worsen the rate of deforestation of the country's meager forest cover.
Dr. Rex Victor Cruz, dean of the UP College of Forestry and Natural Resources in Los Banos and part of the UN Working Group on Climate Change team that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, said illegal loggers and subsistence farmers will swarm the forests and indiscriminately cut trees the very minute concessionaires abandon the areas they once protected as a result of the logging ban.
"What we are concerned about is the state of degradation with which forests will be subjected to once the legitimate concessions cease to operate and illegal loggers start to abuse whatever is left of our forests."
Sadly, government is not capable of implementing a total logging ban, a worried Cruz stressed.
Studies conducted by UP Los Baños on the status of cancelled and expired Timber License Agreements (TLAs) revealed far worse results for areas where the log ban was imposed.
Instead of preserving the forests, destruction became worse as these areas were opened to parties once denied access.
Since these concessions would not be managed well and guarded, the net effect would be far greater despoliation of the forests that a log ban seeks to protect.
Cruz was reacting to Executive Order No. 23 issued by President Aquino practically declaring a logging ban all over the country. He issued the ban after visiting provinces hit recently by floods and landslides.
Cruz said a total logging ban is not the solution to flooding and landslides.
Forests do not necessarily prevent floods and landslides, according to Cruz, since they only have a limited influence on flooding. Instead, the main factors that influence flooding are the geomorphology of the area and the amount of rainfall.
"During a major rainfall event like those that resulted in major flooding, the forest soil becomes saturated and water no longer filters into the soil but instead runs off along the soil surface."
Floods and landslides, Cruz emphasized, are caused by excessive rains and not by a lack of forests.
The Society of Filipino Foresters Inc. (SFFI) a non-governmental organization promoting sustainable forest management, shares Cruz's opinion.
In a statement, SFFI said a logging ban" will not necessarily stop nor even minimize flooding, mudflows and landslides altogether. The cases of floods in Albay, Camarines Sur, Samar, Agusan, Zamboanga, and the Davao provinces .... are the consequences of climate change manifested in prolonged and excessive rain rather than logging per se."
The recent floods in Australia and Brazil, which are countries more thickly forested than the Philippines, illustrate the fact that forests cannot prevent floods in the face of excessive and prolonged rainfall, SFFI said.
Instead of a log ban, both Cruz and the SFF suggest that a Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) program be put in place to assure sustainable harvest from natural forests, more investments in plantations and tree industries, and protection of watershed and [protected areas while assuring the continuity of forest products, and envionmental services from all types of forests.