Sunday, February 6, 2011

Finally, a log ban

Every time there is a typhoon that has disastrous results, “experts” more often than not point to reasons such as too much rainfall or to the geologic characteristics of an area and even to lowly kaingineros as the culprits, but absolve logging from the crime. Norman Myers in his book The Primary Source emphasizes that forests exert a sponge effect, soaking up moisture before releasing it at regular rates. While the forest cover remains intact, rivers not only run clear and clean, they flow throughout the year. When the forest is cleared, rivers start to turn muddy, then swollen or shrunken. An undisturbed dipterocarp forest intercepts at least 35 percent of rainfall, whereas a logged forest intercepts less than 20 percent and a tree plantation, such as rubber or oil palm, only about 12 percent. Myers continues by saying that deforestation aggravates disruptive phenomena such as landslips and rockfalls. Furthermore, deforested lands are less able to withstand the devastation of earthquakes.

Last week, my friend Anya asked me, “By the way, naiinis ka din ba sa ‘experts’ who say that logging has nothing to do with floods?” Now I can tell Anya that PNoy’s latest Executive Order (EO) No. 23 that declares a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests pins logging as the culprit. It states that it is the “obligation of the State to protect the remaining forest cover areas of the country not only to prevent flash floods and hazardous flooding but also to preserve biodiversity, protect threatened habitats and sanctuaries of endangered and rare species . . . ”

This new EO prohibits the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) from issuing logging contracts/agreements and tree cutting permits in all natural and residual forests with some exceptions like for road right of way, site preparation for tree plantations, silvicultural treatment and tree cutting associated with cultural practices of indigenous peoples. The DENR will also review and evaluate all existing forestry agreements and contracts and immediately terminate and cancel agreements that have violated the terms and conditions, as well as existing forestry laws, rules and regulations. A forest certification system in accordance with United Nations standards will be implemented to ascertain the sustainability of legal sources and chain of custody of timber and wood products.
In addition, the DENR will close and prohibit operation of all sawmills, veneer plants and other wood processing plants that are unable to present proof of sustainable sources of legally cut logs for a period of at least FIVE years.

In collaboration with the Departments of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, the DENR shall develop a National Greening Program (NGP) that will respond to the need to restore our dwindling forests and set aside communal tree farms in communities throughout the country that will answer the need for firewood and other purposes. The EO also prioritizes upland farmers covered by the NGP as beneficiaries to the conditional cash transfer program of government. Although government will provide funds for the NGP, it enjoins the private sector and other stakeholders to raise funds and resources for tree planting.

The EO is timely, for the United Nations has declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests. It is a concrete step in contributing to Target 5 of the Strategic Plan of the Convention on Biological Diversity which aims to halve the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests and where feasible brought close to zero by 2020. Clearly, the EO also reinforces Haribon’s forest restoration campaign, ROAD to 2020 that aims to restore 1 million hectares of forest by year 2020. For immediately responding to the decades-long incessant and illogical exploitation of our beleaguered forests, thank you very much Mr. President.


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