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Date:

27 July 2004

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News

Sustainable Forestry Act Introduced in Philippines

After fourteen years, promoting sustainable forest management in the country has been finally realized with the recent signing of Executive Order 318 last June.

After fourteen years, promoting sustainable forest management in the country has been finally realized with the recent signing of Executive Order 318 last June.

This strategy would provide for an efficient use of natural resources to abate poverty, promote industrialization and employment.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Elisea Gozun said the EO is expected to pave the way for the implementation of concerted efforts to save whatever remains in the country's forest that has been ravaged by poor commercial logging practices, illegal logging and the kaingin practice.

"It's all back to base one," Gozun noted, referring to a bill entitled Sustainable Forestry Management Act for which the DENR has been seeking Congressional approval since 1989.

"But the gains made so far to put sustainability as a key determinant in managing the country,s forest resources will have a solid legal ground with EO 318, in the meantime that we await Congress to finally pass a new forestry law anchored on sustainability," she said.

Before the EO was signed, the country's major forest policies were prescribed by the outdated Presidential Decree 705 issued in 1975 when commercial logging was at its peak.

PD 705, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, focused more on utilization of forest resources. In contrast, EO 318 provides for a sustainable and integrated development of forestry resources.

"As it gives equal emphasis on ecological and economic importance of forest resources, the EO provides substantial measures that address the rights of indigenous people meant to strengthen local cultures and a community's existing value system," Gozun explained.

The overriding framework of the EO is sustainable forest management (SFM) by adopting the watershed as the planning unit for forestry programs.

It aims to pursue the sustainable management of forests and forestlands in watersheds through community based forest conservation and development; provision of incentives to enhance private investments, economic contribution, and global competitiveness of forest based industries; proper valuation and pricing of forestry resources and SFM financing.

It also mandates the delineation, classification and demarcation of state forest lands and their placement under a formal management scheme, either as primarily for production or for protection purposes where absolutely no cutting will be allowed.

Despite the inadequacy and near obsolescence of PD 705, the government started adopting the concept of SFM, starting in 1992 as a key strategy for all plans and programs in the forestry sector.

The EO is a landmark forestry issuance as it gives forestry management in the Philippines a new face that hinges on sustainability particularly in devolution and decentralization of forest management roles and functions among stakeholders particularly between local government units and communities.

The EO also eases the regulations on privately-developed forests and privately-planted trees.

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