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EDITORIAL - Growing our future

There’s some good news as the nation marks Forestry Week starting today and hosts a five-day international gathering to mark the event. Studies conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization show that the quality of forest management in the Asia-Pacific region has generally improved, resulting in growth in planted and protected forest areas along with an increase in forestry products to meet growing demand.

The Asia-Pacific, which now accounts for 18.1 percent of the global total of forest cover, has seen its forest area increase by five million hectares since 2010 and 20 million since 2000, according to the FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015. Production of sawn timber, wood-based panels and other goods from the forest have also gone up significantly, the report noted. In the Philippines, the forest area has expanded by an average rate of 240,000 hectares per year, according to the report. 

The positive developments have been attributed to sustainable forestry policies, which take into account the needs of poor communities that live on forest resources. Instead of preventing them from engaging in their marginal livelihood activities, they are turned into stakeholders in sustainable forestry. International cooperation in forest conservation and better enforcement of laws protecting forest resources have also led to positive results.

Problems persist, however, as destructive forestry activities and weak conservation measures continue to deplete forests. In some countries, forests are being cleared through the quick but destructive slash-and-burn method to make way for farms to produce biofuels. The destruction of forests is also depriving animals such as the orangutan of their natural habitats.

Communities understand the need to make their livelihood sources sustainable. Projects promoting reforestation, reduced impact logging, and training in forest fire management have been supported by these communities. They understand this special week’s theme, which likens sustainable forestry to growing our future.

In the Philippines, people have suffered through enough killer typhoons, landslides and floods to understand the importance of maintaining watersheds. There has been laudable progress in efforts to save the forests. Still, much work remains and gains can be reversed if vigilance is not sustained.

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