Commercial loggers not illegal loggers are the main culprits of deforestation

The devastation brought by the recent landslides and flashfloods in Bicol, Southern Leyte, and CARAGA has impelled President Noynoy Aquino to propose signing an Executive Order imposing a total log ban in the Philippines that will hopefully stop illegal loggers from destroying our forests.

Kalikasan PNE believes however that the proposed EO on log ban cannot solve deforestation. Although illegal loggers do contribute to the problem, the primary culprits in the destruction of our forests are the legal commercial loggers. If PNoy wants to stop the massive destruction of our forests he should cancel all the permits of all commercial logging concessions and impose a ban on commercial logging.  Illegal logging in itself is a crime whether there is a log ban or not.

According to the Forest Management Bureau (FMB), in 2008 a total of 1,354,124 hectares of our forests are under different logging concessions like Timber Licensing Agreement (TLA) and Industrial Forest Management Agreement (IFMA). The Philippines has only 7,168,400 hectares of remaining forest as of 2003.

The massive floods and landslides are the result of the historical large scale loggings in the past that continue to operate until today in areas like Southern Leyte, Western Samar, Aurora, Isabela, Quezon, Davao del Norte and CARAGA provinces.

CARAGA region which was heavily hit by the flashfloods and landslides has the highest volume of timber production among the regions of the country. Even in the so-called last frontier province of Palawan, tens of thousands of hectares of our forests are under legal commercial logging and mining.

Based on forestry data, the Philippine forests have been in rapid decline since in early 1900’s when the American colonial government implemented commercial logging in the country. The fastest decline happened in 1960 to 70’s when logging is one of the primary export earners of the local economy.

If President Aquino is serious about halting deforestation and minimize it impacts, he must immediately halt commercial logging in virgin and secondary forests. Massive forest rehabilitation should be done by the government using native Philippine forest trees. He should junk the bankrupt forest policies of the government which are oriented at commoditization and commercialization of our forests and their resources.

As of 2005 the government has classified 75% of our forest areas for production and only 23% for protection and conservation. FMB data shows there are 1,517,412 hectares classified as watershed forest reserve. But in these areas, commercial logging and mining agreements interlock.

Our forests should not be treated only as a commodity but more so as sources of livelihood, food, and life. If the government remains in its old destructive framework and policies, we will continue to lose our forests and suffer heavily the impacts and effects. D’Jay Lazaro

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