May 27, 2006 · Posted in: Environment Watch
DESPITE the slowing down of deforestation rates in the Philippines in the last three decades, most of the country’s forests are still at risk with only around 1.6 percent being managed in a sustainable way, a new study has reported.
The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), in a report released on May 25, said that recent community-based approaches to forest management in the Philippines have yet to succeed “in restoring the country’s degraded landscapes.”
The report, called “Status of Tropical Forest Management 2005,” says that of the estimated 4.7 million hectares of production forests — forest lands that are used for the production of timber and other forest products — only 76,000 hectares are sustainably managed.
Protection forests meanwhile, make up some 1.54 million hectares, bringing the total forest estate to 6.24 million hectares. The ITTO report says available data were insufficient to estimate the area of the protection forest that is being managed sustainably. (Protection forests are forests on fragile lands, and those protected for plant and animal biodiversity conservation.)
The report notes that the control of illegal activities — such as continued logging in areas of old-growth forests — “remains a major challenge and is one of the main obstacles to sustainable forest management.”
The new ITTO report analyzes the situation of forest management in all of its 33 member countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The group used information from the countries themselves as well as a range of other sources.
ITTO is releasing the report at the 40th Session of the International Tropical Timber Council, which is meeting from May 29 to June 2 in Mexico.
Globally, the report found, there has been “significant progress” towards sustainable forest management in the tropics since the ITTO conducted its first survey in 1988. It noted that many countries have established, and are starting to implement, new forest policies that contain the basic elements of sustainable management. As such, some 36 million hectares of rainforest are now being properly managed, compared to less than one million 17 years ago.
The group adds, however, that “despite the progress made since 1988, significant areas of tropical forest are still lost every year, and unsustainable (and often illegal) extraction of tropical forest resources remains widespread.” Overall, the report says, 95 percent of the world’s forests are unprotected.
The report makes specific mention of the Philippines as among those countries that have lost large areas of their forest cover over the last sixty years.
“No other Asia-Pacific country was deforested as extensively as the Philippines in the period after World War II,” the report observes.
Many of the causes of such “large-scale destruction” of the forest resource, the report says, “can be linked to a combination of land and concession tenure issues and the lack of ability or will to enforce the conditions of the concessions.”
Other findings of the ITTO report on the Philippines’ forests are the following:
- The contribution of the forest sector to the national income has declined, from 1.6 percent of GDP in 1975, 0.14 percent in 1999, and 0.05 percent in 2002.
- An estimated 18-20 million people are dependent on 7.2 million hectares of forest lands for subsistence uses and traditional and customary lifestyles.
- Indigenous communities play a key role in the implementation of community-based forest management in areas they claim as their ancestral domain.