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DENR bans new logging permits in second-growth forest

MANILA, Sept. 29 – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Wednesday it has cordoned off from new logging contracts the country’s second-growth forest.

These are known as “natural forests,” that have replaced primary or “old-growth” forests that once blanketed much of the country’s 12 million hectares of lush tropical forest in the 1960s.

DENR Secretary Ramon JP Paje said in a news briefing he issued Memorandum Order (MO) no. 9 ordering all DENR’s field officers to “stop accepting and processing” all forms of applications for new timber contracts “with logging component in the natural forests.”

The order was issued last August 20, 2010 with a stern warning that “any official who will violate this instruction shall be automatically relieved and charged accordingly.”

It stresses that the move is “consistent with our climate change mitigation” by actively promoting tree plantations in marginal lands from which to source the country’s domestic timber needs.

“On the other hand, establishment of tree plantations and development of idle, denuded and degraded areas shall be encouraged,” said Paje, while stressing that he “will not approve/sign new logging contracts with logging component in the natural forests.”

The Forestry Master Plan recommends the establishment of at least 550,000 hectares of timber plantations for the country to achieve self-sufficiency for its total wood requirements.

While his hands are legally tied to allow the logging contracts in natural forests run its full course, Paje explained the order should remove the pressure from existing old-growth and second-growth forests that are important for the fight against climate change for their excellent capacity to store carbon dioxide.

Paje said existing logging contracts will undergo review and he expects erring holders of DENR-issued timber permits will be trimmed especially those whose concessioned-area include natural forests.

With the passage of the National Integrated Protected Areas Systems (NIPAS) in 1992, the remaining old-growth forest areas have been designated as “protection forests” and logging shifted to residual forests.

Before 1992, logging activities were conducted in old-growth forest and resulted in their transformation to residual or natural forest where forest cover regenerated on their own without human intervention.

Often referred to as “second-growth” forest, regeneration is evident in these areas that the effects of the disturbance are no longer evident.

Results of a 2004 study on country’s Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) showed that old-growth forest, designated for protection purposes, account for some 1,700,050 hectares or 24 percent of the total forest cover of 7,162,560 hectares.

In terms of use, FRA data showed that about 5,462,510 ha or 76 percent is set aside for production purposes with 2,102,942 ha are covered with tenurial instruments some of which involve logging activities within natural forests.

Natural forest, on the other hand, covers about 6,535,368 hectares or 91.2 percent while the plantation forest covers about 627,192 hectares or 8.8 percent. Natural forests and plantation forests, are the primary sources of the country’s wood needs. (PNA)

LDV/JCA

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