SPECIAL REPORT: Phl now a heavy importer of logs
- Rudy A. Fernandez () - March 2, 2011 - 12:00am

(First of 2 parts)

MANILA, Philippines - Once a lavish exporter of logs. Now a heavy importer of this wood product.

Also, a big chunk of the country’s lumber and other forest products, on top of the imported logs, is now sourced from Asian and Pacific countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea) and as far as Canada in North America, Brazil in South America, South Africa, and Germany in Europe.

This is how pathetic the Philippines has become.

Centuries back, when billions of trees lushly mantled the country’s mountains, who would think that Filipinos would one day become log importers?

That fateful day came in the 1980s.

During the 1989-2003 period, the Philippines imported 7.7 million cubic meters of logs valued at $925.6 million (about P508 billion at the then peso-dollar exchange rate), National Statistics Office (NSO) records showed.

The country began heavily importing logs in 1989, buying 397,926 cu m valued then at $29.82 milllion.

Log importation peaked in 1996 when 877,585 cu m woth $127.4 million were shipped in. It decreased to 768,474 cu m in 1997 and down to 584,759 cu m in 2000.

It slid further to 164,960 cu m in 2005 and to 77,557 cu m in 2008, statistics obtained by The STAR from the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development PCARRD) indicated.

NSO records also showed that the country imported 4.26 million cu m of lumber valued at $1.03 billion during the 1993-2003 period.

Lumber importation peaked in 1996 when the Philippines sourced from other countries 567,426 cu m valued at $162 million. It went down and up and down in the succeeding years, settling at 164,595 cu m in 2005.

Today, a former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) undersecretary reported recently, the country needs about 2.5 million cu m of wood, most of it imported, to feed its wood-based industry that sells in the international markets.

The 20th century Filipino, records now attest, has been the most wanton and destructive exploiter of the country’s natural resources.

Consider the following mind-boggling data gathered from various sources, among them the DENR-Forest Management Bureau (FMB) and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO):

• At the height of the logging industry in the 1960s and 1970s, a high 300,000 hectares of forests were cleared yearly. This is one-thirtieth of the country’s total land area of 30 million ha.

• During 1990-2000, deforestation was still high at 260,000 ha/yr. The deforestation rate decreased to 157,000 ha/yr during the 2000-2005 period.

The question new is: Will the 21st century Filipino (particularly the greedy and rapacious legal and illegal loggers and survivalist mountain dwellers) be left unbridled to wipe out what is left of the country’s forest resources?

With the unabated degradation of the environment set against the grim backdrop of a burgeoning population (fast racing to the 100 million mark), one wonders how well the Philippines will fare in its “race against time”.

Over the past two decades, catastrophes triggered by natural phenomena, notably typhoons and floods, swept communities in various parts of the country.

A glaring example was the deluge that sent thousands of residents of Ormoc City (Southern Leyte) to their watery graves in 1991.

In succeeding years, nature again angrily fought back with vengeance.

Mudslides buried villages in Guinsaugon (also in Southern Leyte) and Albay. Floods and landslides also subsequently swept Eastern Samar, resulting in the death of many old and young people alike.

Even legendary Mt. Makiling in Laguna was not spared. When typhoon “Milenyo” unleashed its fury on the mountain in 2006, 15 residents of Barangay Bagong Silang in the heart of the storied mountain perished in a landslide of boulders, uprooted trees and mud triggered by floodwaters cascading from the mountain.

Moreover, who can forget the deaths and properly destruction wrought by typhoons Ondoy, Pepeng, Frank, Basyang, and other deadly howlers that battered the country in recent years. (To be continued)

ASIAN AND PACIFIC BARANGAY BAGONG SILANG COUNTRY DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES EASTERN SAMAR FOREST MANAGEMENT BUREAU FORESTRY AND NATURAL RESOURCES RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT MILLION MT. MAKILING NATIONAL STATISTICS OFFICE SOUTHERN LEYTE
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