Jump to Navigation

Life outside of impeachment trials

External Reference/Copyright
Issue date: 
February 18, 2012
Publisher Name: 
Ray Butch Gamboa
Author e-Mail: 
More like this


Many of us are wondering: what is the latest on the total log ban? All the stakeholders involved here have been quiet, and the newspapers can’t get enough of the current impeachment proceedings. Now with more than 20 hearings, the public is fed with little morsels of new information on this impeachment, and the end is nowhere in sight. We have been rehashing old information for weeks and kicking around technicalities. Still, everything else is on hold, and we’re talking of serious issues that have profound effects on whole industries and thousands of families.

Don’t get me wrong. I myself follow the impeachment proceedings daily, when schedules permit. However, there are issues out there that need to be threshed as well, but nobody seems to have the time of day for them. Not yet, and not for a long time.

Some of the burning issues include mining and the total log ban. While I do not have enough to go on with regards to the mining issue, I got some feedbacks from the Philippine Wood Producers Association (PWP) on one hand and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on the other, enough to scratch the surface so to speak.

The PWP is, of course hurting from this latest development when, through a Presidential Decree, specifically EO 23 issued on Feb. 1, 2011, their industry was virtually wiped off the slate of Philippine industries. This total log ban was actually discussed during President Cory’s term, but the legislative and executive bodies never adopted the policy of a total log ban. But then, I guess we did not have half as much of the natural calamities that have visited our land as now, so perhaps the urgency was not there.

Their problem is the floods and catastrophic landslides have been traced to denuded forests, and there is no doubt that our forests are denuded. Get an aerial view and you will instantly see for yourself. But PWP officers lament that the government is quick to point an accusing finger at the wood producers when the problem is actually the illegal loggers whose nefarious activities have never been effectively checked, not in any administration. Antonio Olizon, PWP president says, “the problem is they should distinguish illegal logging from the legal loggers’ group. ..We are for a sustainable forest management practice.”

What does sustainable forest management actually mean? It means that with a systematic approach, we should be able to harvest the forest perpetually. After harvesting in one particular area, the loggers can only go back to the same area after 20 years when the new trees have matured enough to be cut down for lumber. But do we have the luxury of forest space for us to wait decades to re-harvest an area?

DENR Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo informed us that four decades ago, our forest cover exceeded 50 percent of our total land area. His figure was actually 56 percent. Now, some 40 years later, our forest cover has dwindled to between 23 percent and 24 percent, so EO 23 is not exactly without basis. Of the 30 million hectares of land that we have in the country, some 53 percent has been legally classified as forest area. Now, our country’s forest area is down to almost eight million hectares, and of this eight million, less than one million hectares are from a position of high elevation.

The DENR usec said that those fortunate enough to have been granted concessions through Timber License Agreements to develop these denuded areas were dismal failures in themselves. Apparently, they failed in their commitment to reforest the denuded areas in the uplands, and this has contributed greatly to the deadly landslides in some areas in Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon. Did you know that from DENR statistics, one out of every four Filipinos live in the uplands? That is how many of our countrymen live in the mountains, and these very same people have largely contributed to the denudation. Just from the crude cottage industry of charcoal-making, they cut down anywhere between 30 to 35 million cubic meters a year, and they do not discriminate between mature trees and little-more-than-saplings either.


The DENR actually filed a bill for Sustainable Forest Management several years back, but several revisions and versions later (which included a proposal for a 25-year moratorium), a total log ban has been put in place which mandates a moratorium on harvesting in the natural residual forests, effectively a total log ban.

Even without this total log ban, wood production has gone down so much in recent years that our importation is much bigger than our local production, which fuels yet another source of corruption, namely smuggling. Comparing data from China and our own local data on legitimate importations (with duties paid), PWP says the glaring difference shows widespread smuggling of plywood from China, along with other countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. PWP wants to know what happened to the tree-planting programs started by previous administrations: where are these trees? They also say that the National Greening Program of the government is so wanting in that basic questions like what to plant cannot be answered.

For their 60th anniversary last year, PWP reportedly pledged 5 million seedlings to DENR in five years and were gearing to have a Memorandum of Agreement for this proposal, but apparently, the DENR is not interested. They are still hoping the government will take heed of this offer. However way you look at it, that’s 5 million future trees.

Meanwhile, the DENR has started the CBFM (Community-based Forest Management) program for the upland dwellers to train and educate them to plant cash crops and fruit trees for their food requirements and sustenance instead of cutting down trees for charcoal. Usec Adobo also clarified that no logging permits were issued in Cagayan de Oro, and the apprehended logs in Region 10 accounts for less than 200,000 board feet of forest products compared to other regions. He also said that exemptions cited in EO 23 include government infrastructure projects and mining operations with approved environmental and enhancement plans, meaning they replace for every tree that they cut.

Meanwhile, the task force created to run after illegal loggers has not made significant apprehensions. PWP says the focus should not be on apprehending and confiscating illegal logs as this is after the fact, when the damage has been done. They should focus more on preventing the illegal logging. Our forest rangers are dwindling in number, and there is only one forest ranger for every 4000 hectares of forest land.

No doubt, the DENR has good programs for forest management and for the environment, but the PWP is only hoping for an audience with the President so they could present their side of the issue. Unfortunately, they have not been granted this audience. Too, that pledge of five million seedlings is too good to pass up. How about it?


Extpub | by Dr. Radut