The Project advocates for the passage of the sustainable forest management (SFM) bill by the Congress that seeks to amend the 42-year old Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines enacted on May 19, 1975 otherwise known as Presidential Decree 705. In this context, SFM is designed to promote the sustainable use of forestlands through the wise utilization of forestlands and its resources. A 2002 publication of the Philippine Forestry Policy Forum mentions:
“The pending bills in Congress (both Lower House and Senate) have been crafted in efforts to replace P.D. 705 or the Forestry Code of the Philippines and incorporate provisions that are more appropriate to recent changes in the forestry sector. Most important of these changes is the government’s shift from corporate management of forest resources (through timber license agreements) to community-based forest management. This is embodied in E.O. 263, which proclaims community-based forest management as the national strategy for managing the country’s remaining forests.
In the pending bills in Congress, Sustainable Forest Management and Development refers to the process of managing, developing and utilizing forestland resources to achieve the production of desired products and services without impairing the inherent productivity of the forest thereby insuring a continuous flow of these products or services.”
Other highlights of the SFM bill, according to the Philippine Forestry Policy Forum, include:
a. Establishment of final forest limits as mandated by the Constitution;
b. Institutionalization of mechanism to encourage active participation of local communities and local government units in forest protection and management;
c. Adopt a forest management planning tool using watershed as basic planning unit;
d. Adoption of community-based forest management (CBFM) as a key strategy in forest management;
e. Acceleration of reforestation activities especially in degraded areas and set aside as national parks, watershed or protected area;
f. Strengthening of forest protection activities by providing funds therefore and increasing penalties for violation of forest laws by government personnel and civilians;
g. Strengthening forest support systems through research and technology development transfer; and
h. Creation of the Sustainable Forestry Development Fund, among other things.
A paper published by Dr. Ernesto Guiang entitled, “Trends in forest ownership, forest resources tenure and institutional arrangements in the Philippines: Are they contributing to better forest management and poverty reduction?” describes Philippine forestry development, to wit:
The main direct cause of forest degradation in the Philippines is overexploitation, fuelled by weak governance, the capture of resources by elite groups, failure to collect rents from licensees, shortsighted and unpredictable policies, rapid population growth, and increased conversion of forest land to agricultural, residential and commercial uses. Over the last 20 years, the government and the donor community have made serious efforts to address the continuing forest degradation (Vitug,1993; de los Angeles, 2000).
Though the Philippines had initiated reforestation efforts, it is still unlikely that wood demand will be met in the immediate future. According to the Forest Management Bureau (FMB) publication “Philippine Forestry Statistics (of 2016), the agency through the National Greening Program (NGP) has accomplished the reforestation of 1.66 million hectares of forestlands. However, this does not guarantee that wood demand in the country will be met granting the long gestation, the type of species planted (significant of which are fruit-bearing trees), and the purpose by which they are planted. FMB furthered that “the NGP goes beyond just a mere reforestation program. It is a national effort that aims to address food security, poverty reduction, environmental stability, biodiversity conservation and a mechanism for climate change mitigation strategy that seeks to enhance the country’s forest stock to absorb carbon dioxide.” In its site, the FMB likewise mentioned that mangroves and bamboo comprises the commodity roadmap of the Enhanced National Greening Program; NGP’s second phase that is set for implementation from 2017 to 2028.
Both in the original and the enhanced NGP, there is no explicit statement that the said project intends to address the need for sustainable and legal timber. As such, there is a need to fill in the gap.
In 2016, the Philippines spent US$1.845 billion in importing forest products that is equivalent to about 2.19% of its total importation. This figure has increased by 0.2% compared to last year’s 1.99% (US$1.4 billion). Considering that the country is predominantly forestland, this trend is not acceptable. The country should employ the necessary reforms to increase the production of legal and sustainable timber. The SFFI together with the DENR, the Philippine Wood Producers Association, the Forest Management Bureau, the Forest Development Center and other stakeholders, have already initiated convergence via an Interim National Governing Board (INGB) that would formulate the national forestry certification system following the public-private-community partnership (PPCP) strategy aiming on forestry development promoting not only economic development but more importantly social and environmental development and sustainability.
To effect this, the SFFI had been working closely with the House of Representatives’ Natural Resource Committee in the review and evaluation of the seven versions of the sustainable forest management (SFM) Bills that have been filed by various legislators since the mid-90s. According to the said Committee, there is a need to integrate the filed bills and submit the same as a consolidation. However, the SFFI intends not only to integrate the seven bills but also update the contents based on the collective position and information gathered from the field. The expected result from this is a national policy that effectively promotes forestlands reforestation and/or restoration, poverty alleviation, sustainable production of legal timber and non-timber products, biodiversity enhancement, disaster risk reduction and contribution to the country’s nationally-determined contribution on tempering climate change. Whenever possible, the public-private-community partnership (PPCP) strategy will be followed for greater stakeholder participation.
The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme promotes the implementation of the FLEGT Action Plan by improving forest governance, providing technical assistance, and building capacity through funding projects in eligible countries. In pursuit of these objectives, the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme has agreed to support the project entitled “Advocacy towards the passage of the Sustainable Forest Management Bill”.