June 28,, 2021
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has entered an MOU with the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO) for the production of value-added wood products from forests in Negros Oriental and Agusan del Sur which will generate jobs for grassroots communities.
A vertical integration project (VIP) for wood processing will produce value-added wood products using raw materials harvested from Community Based Forest Management (CBFM) areas being managed by People’s Organizations (POs) in Negros Oriental and Agusan del Sur.
Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the project will be co-financed with AFoCO for US$1.118 million.
DENR will implement the project through the Forest Management Bureau and DENR’s field offices in Regions 7 and 13.
Unlike now when only logs are produced from these CBFM areas, the vertical integration project is seen to produce value-added, semi or finished products (such as construction materials or arts and crafts).
Income of POs is expected to improve with the products’ increased value.
DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the project with AFoCO will be the start of a sustainable forest management project that will create a new industry in the two provinces.
He stressed the economic importance that raw materials will come from CBFM, and POs in the grassroots will benefit.
“The Philippines needs five million cubic meters of wood or lumber per year. Only one million is from the Philippines. The rest is imported. Those that come from the Philippines are from private forests, not CBFM,” Cimatu said during the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signing.
To be implemented over five years until 2026, Cimatu expressed satisfaction that after a two-year delay due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the project will now start.
More especially, it is with partnership with AFoCO which is based in South Korea, a leader in reforestation.
It was noted that Korea once had very low forest cover due to a civil war. But it bounced back as one of the countries in Asia with the highest forest cover due to its aggressive reforestation that Philippines can emulate.
In the implementation of the AFoCO, there will also be collaboration with other national government agencies like the DOST-Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI) and Local Government Units (LGUs), among others.
Each project site shall undergo capacity building activities on product’s value-addition. The project sites will be provided with access to machineries and equipment in support to value adding activities. They will be provided with access to funds and will be assisted in establishing links with potential wood product buyers/traders in the domestic market.
Moreover, the experience and lessons learned from the two pilot sites shall be consolidated/integrated to come up with policy recommendations. By the end of the project, the initiative is expected to contribute in the development of an enterprise/livelihood that would lead toward the sustainable management of the forest under the Community Based Forest Management Program; and shall likewise to be translated into enabling policy guidelines which can further be used and replicated by other Asian countries.
In relation to the Department’s intention to strength forest management, Cimatu said that the DENR will also push for the legislation of a forest law enforcement arm.
DENR will create at least a 2,000-strong forest guard workforce. Similar to Korea where illegal loggers are automatically driven away by the presence of forest guards in uniform, Philippines will employ this practice.
That will be along with other practices in South Korea that may be somewhat difficult to emulate, such as its robust aviation force patrolling forests, but not impossible.
For one, Philippines employs high-technology forest monitoring devices in what is called the LAWIN. It is an innovative forest monitoring technology capable of geo-spatial analysis of collected data indicating forests’ condition and threats to trees and wildlife. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)