Encouraging Sustainability

The Forest Resources Bill or FRB

Actions for the FRB

The Forest Resources Bill or FRB is a bill which seeks to ensure the continued and efficient use of forest resources by present and future generations. Forest resources include everything from timber, wildlife, rubber, and oil to ecological services like storing water, erosion prevention, carbon trapping, and more.

Read the primer & introduction below, or download the complete PDF here.

The past: A history of forest policy

The regulation, centralization, and inequality of forest policy, as described by Sajise (1998), goes way back during the colonial period, when the ownership of all the lands and resources of what would become the Philippines was stripped from the people and claimed by the Spanish crown through the regalian doctrine. This concept of state ownership was embodied even in the succeeding American and postcolonial administrations, down to our present Constitution. The Forest Service was established in 1863, according to Pulhin and Pulhin (2002), while Garrity and his colleagues (as cited in Fernando, 2005) estimated that 68% of our lands were covered in forests during 1876.

Forest policy remained highly regulatory and centralized throughout the American period and most of the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos (Fernando 2005). It was the Americans who allowed large areas of our lands to be opened for commercial logging, and who also enacted the 1904 Forest Act, our very first basis of forest legislation. After the independence, the forest industry further grew while more and more trees were felled, and by the 1950s logging concessions covered 25% of the total public forest land. These concessions were granted both for national development and for the political favors benefitting multinational corporations and the ruling class (Vitug 2000).

But it was also around that time when the seeds of sustainable forest management (SFM) were planted — the Philippine Selective Logging System was introduced in 1953. The system advocated SFM, including the regulation of timber harvesting procedures, but it was not successfully implemented (Fernando 2005).

The Marcos years were said to be the peak of deforestation as more logging concessions were given to political allies, the market for what was touted as Philippine Mahogany grew even bigger, and the population also increased, leading to the expansion of agriculture and infrastructure in the uplands (Pulhin 2002). Vitug (2000) adds that policies were not heeded, the forest agency itself was both weak and corrupt, and the business costs were low enough to attract further exploitation of forest resources.

The forest cover was estimated to have dropped to 35% by 1969 (Garrity et al. in Fernando 2005), which ushered in a new set of efforts toward SFM, particularly CommunityBased Forest Management (CBFM). Community forestry programs were introduced in 1975 and integrated in 1982 through the Integrated Social Forestry Program (ISFP). The first comprehensive attempts to reform the longstanding 1904 Forest Act were also initiated during the same period through the 1974 Forestry Reform Code and the 1975 Revised Forestry Code.

The EDSA Revolution and Cory Aquino’s subsequent presidency signalled much needed changes in forest management, as the 1988 inventory of DENR (2004) showed that only 22% forest cover was left. The 1987 Constitution and National Reforestation Program took over from where ISFP left off and replaced concessions with management agreements with local communities, nongovernment organizations, and corporations. The Master Plan for Forestry Development was formulated in 1990. The Local Government Code was also passed during her term, in 1991, and devolved some forest management functions to local government units (LGUs).

It is also worth noting that the first bill on Sustainable Forest Management was proposed in Congress in 1990 (Carandang 2005), while the Ramos and Arroyo administrations passed the 1992 National Integrated Protected Areas Act and the 2004 executive order promoting SFM, respectively.

The present: The current state of our forests

But while these landmark pieces of legislation kept on piling up, the 1975 Revised Forestry Code still remains as the legislative basis for forest mangement and utilization. Though it has been amended many times, it still addresses problems of extraction rather than of conservation and sustainable development. The maze of laws and orders actually do more to hamper than help effective implementation.

DENR’s latest estimate of forest cover is at around 24% (2003). It does signal a slight increase, but this can be attributed more to the adoption of a new definition of forests, which includes orchards and plantations, and not to the restoration of forests. This figure is also insufficient, as we need at least half of our total land area to be covered in forests for them to adequately perform their ecological functions.

We need to accept that deforestation has primarily been anthropogenic, or caused by human activity. It was carried out by Filipinos who followed a highly resourceextractive development framework to support economic growth. Demanddriven and toplevel decisionmaking in the logging and mining sectors have subverted the sustainability of forest resources and remaining forestlands.

Deforestation has also been exacerbated by weak governance and unsustainable policy. Policies on forest land use and management conflict with each other, while forest governance has remained highly centralized in practice, and characterized by ineffective and corrupt management (Sajise 1998, Vitug 2000).

The future: Towards a new framework of forest management

Those involved in the crafting of this bill share the same belief that the protection of natural forests is inevitable because of their ecological, social, and economic importance. This is why remaining natural forests should be protected and degraded forests should be restored. We all depend on forests and biodiversity for our basic needs.

Our next priority is to ensure that forests are responsibly and properly managed using ecologically sound science and supported by a strong and sustained framework organization. We need to rationalize a forest land use policy and plan out a comprehensive and definitive forest management program to ensure that the next generations will be able to benefit from forest resources and services.

We also need to ensure that forest management would be truly participatory and equitable. Local government units should be empowered to take the lead in forest management, communities should participate and benefit from it, and the rights of indigenous peoples should be upheld.

Lastly, we need to ensure that forest management efforts will be sustainable themselves through education. We should not only improve formal forestry education but also include environmental education in all levels of education. Every Filipino child should learn to value and care for our forests, making sure that the lessons they have learned from us will be never be repeated.

Note: Representatives Jesus Celeste (IPangasinan), Teddy Baguilat Jr. (Ifugao), Mel Senen Sarmiento (IWestern Samar), and Arthur Defensor Jr. (IIIIloilo) have filed the Forest Resources Bill in the Lower House.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Forest Resources Bill?

The Forest Resources Bill is a bill which seeks to ensure the continued and efficient use of forest resources by present and future generations. It is a version of a Sustainable Forest Management Bill prepared by Haribon and its partner organizations that reflects their principles and experiences from working in the forestry and biodiversity sectors.

What are forest resources?

Forest resources can refer to timber, wildlife, and nontimber forest products like rattan, bamboo, rubber, paint, and oil. Soil and water are part of the forest and are therefore also considered forest resources.

Forest resources also include the intangible services or values of forests. These are ecological services, such as storing water, trapping carbon, cleaning water and air, and minimizing the impacts of floods by helping to prevent erosion and sedimentation.

Why the change from a Sustainable Forest Management Bill to a Forest Resources Bill?

It was suggested by some NGOs to rename the bill to put into focus our use of these resources, the benefits we gain from them, and the need to ensure that we continue to benefit from them for many years to come. FRB also seeks to disassociate itself from the SFM Bill which uses a framework that is focused on logging.

When did the bill first appear in legislative policy?

The Sustainable Forest Management Bill was first filed in 1990. The proceedings only gained momentum during the previous Congress, with the Senate Bill 3580 reaching Second Reading and moved to the Special Orders calendar. SB 3580 was filed to consolidate the four versions of Senators Loren Legarda, Jinggoy EjercitoEstrada, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Pia Cayetano. On the other hand, House Bill 5792 by Representative Rufus Rodriguez was approved on Third Reading and transmitted to the Senate.

However, the coming of the 15th Congress means we are back to square one yet again.

What is the current status of the bill?

As of September 2010, Senators EjercitoEstrada, Trillanes, and Pia Cayetano have already refiled their own versions of the SFM Bill, all of which are currently pending in the Committee of Environment and Natural Resources. Representatives Rufus Rodriguez, Susan Yap, Juan Edgardo Angara, and Angelo Palmones have also filed their own versions, which have been primarily referred to the House Committee on Reforestation.

Why is Haribon pushing for a different version? And why should it be signed into law?

Haribon and other civil society organizations have been lobbying for the inclusion of critical provisions in the Senate version in the past three years, but these were not incorporated in Senate Bill 3580. These provisions are necessary to protect our remaining forests as the nation braves itself to stand against an array of natural disasters and the impacts of climate change.

The First Session of the 15th Congress has only just begun, which means there is time for people, especially members of the legislature, to reconsider reforming the proposed forest policy to prioritize biodiversity conservation, forest restoration, and participatory governance.

Why is it important to protect our forests?

Biodiversity in the Philippines is one of the richest in the world; we are part of the 17―mega diverse countries which collectively claim two thirds of all global species. But two thirds of our forests have vanished from the 1930s to 1988, and with the loss of the forests came the loss of many species, some probably forever.

We have to conserve the forest, as well as other ecosystems, because from the variety of genes, species, and ecosystems comes the variety of natural resources and other benefits we currently enjoy. Healthy forests mean a steady supply of food, medicine, and shelter for wildlife. They also mean income from timber, crops, fruit trees, firewood, and other non timber products for people.

Then there are the ecological benefits of forests which are difficult to price, especially as a source of our water which we use for our homes, agriculture, and industries. They are indispensable in this era of climate change because they are effective in trapping carbon dioxide, regulating climate, providing protection from heavy rains and storms, and minimizing flash floods and landslides. They are also our main source of clean air and water.

Lastly, forests have many other intangible values: historical, educational, social and cultural/aesthetic. These serve as venues for spiritual, cultural and even recreational activities. These even serve as homes for many indigenous people.

If we protect all our natural forests, will we be able to address current timber demand?

Yes, because only around 10% of our timber come from natural forests (DENR, 2008). About 68% come from production forestlands or tree plantations, while the rest were imported. We can make up for the 10% and strive to completely source timber locally if we manage our production forestlands more efficiently.

What are the important provisions of the Forest Resources Bill?

  • The functional definition of forest is used. The definition of the term forest adopted by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources and used in the current Senate bill is questionable. A forest cannot be defined as having ten percent (10%) forest cover in half a hectare because it clearly defies the role of forests in the environment, and raises questions as to whether forests are viewed mainly as a collection of trees for timber utilization.It is unfortunate that this definition was adopted by the Philippines from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), wherein a majority of its member states still opted to use the functional definition of forests. This FAO definition was crafted for use under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, and is in danger of becoming obsolete beyond 2012. We went one step too far when the DENR adopted it as the official definition in a 2005 memo.The FAO definition hides the real rate of deforestation and misleads people into complacency. It is very interesting to note that from that redefinition alone, forest area around the world increased by 300 million hectares (FAO, 2005). It has led to the increase in forest areas worldwide not because we have made such huge steps in reforestation, but because we counted in the definition the tree plantations and even highly degraded or completely barren lands which are expected to revert to forest over time.It also does not give us a clear picture of the state of our biodiversity, because tree plantations are basically just a collection of trees. They are not ecosystems like the forests, sustaining varied plant and animal life and maintaining varied biological functions.A forest is best described as an ecosystem wherein trees are the dominant life form, as a community of plants and animals interacting with one another and its physical environment, and as consisting of trees with overlapping crown of 60100% forest cover, as defined by the United States National Vegetation Classification system (Section 4).
  • All remaining natural forests are protected. Haribon continues to support the proposal of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to define protection forestlands as ―all natural and restored forests‖ in the proposed bill. Commercial logging, mining and other similar extractive activities are prohibited in protection forestlands, and all existing permits, licenses and agreements in them would be excluded from coverage. (Sections 8, 26, and 27).
  • Forest restoration is prioritized. Provisions for forest restoration must be more comprehensive and made compulsory. Restoration is ultimately about bringing back an area to its original state and initial function. It is different from tree plantations where the primary purpose is to supply timber; it even connotes that there are many different stages needed to achieve its original state.Restoration also highlights the need to plant native tree species that have a greater chance of survival in areas identified for reforestation. The use of native or indigenous tree species is crucial as it encourages the growth of other native plant species, consequently contributing to genuine ecological restoration and not limiting the benefits of tree plantation to the harvest of timber (Sections 3 and 41).
  • The watershed continuum is recognized as the basic forestland management unit. The watershed continuum refers to an area consisting of the watershed and its divide including its connection from the headwaters to the reef. Forestlands shall be conserved, developed, and managed using the watershed continuum as the basic management unit under the concepts of sustainable and multipleuse management, including the conservation of biodiversity. The bill recognizes that watersheds are transitional and composed of various interconnected ecosystems. Everything is interconnected. It follows that whatever is done in one part of the watershed continuum affects the other parts (Section 3 and 37).
  • Indigenous people and other forest communities can harvest forest products from protection forestlands for subsistence. Local communities dependent on the forests for survival, including indigenous people, are given access even to timber products in protection forestlands, if they were harvested in designated woodlots for their daily needs. Otherwise, only nontimber forest products are allowed to be extracted from protection forestlands (Section 26).
  • Local governments and communities have important roles in forest management. The communities are the ones immediately affected by the state of their forests, so they should have a say on how they are managed. The role of local government units (LGUs) in forest management will therefore be strengthened. This will start through a comanagement agreement between the Department, the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the concerned LGU regarding the functions which shall be devolved, providing for capacity building and empowerment mechanisms (Sections 11 to 21).

How will government bodies and LGUs carry out their functions in forest management?

The new government bodies to be created will work within existing structures:

  1. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The DENR is the primary agency for conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of forestlands and unclassified lands of the public domain. It shall formulate a national forestry masterplan and its policies. Certain functions and powers of the Department may be devolved to the local government units (Section 11).
  2. Local government units. LGUs shall share responsibility in the sustainable management and use of forest resources within their territorial jurisdiction. They shall also spearhead the preparation and implementation of forestland use and watershed continuum management plan to be integrated in the LGUs’ Comprehensive Land Use Plans. They are to be assisted, however, by the DENR, other government agencies, local communities, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), and other sectors (Sections 13 and 15).
  3. Forest Board. The Board shall be established at the municipal level, and shall consist of representatives from the concerned LGU/s and different sectors such as women, farmers, and indigenous people. It will be in charge of the overall policy direction for the management of the forestlands and forest resources. It shall review and recommend implementation of programs and projects and perform oversight functions, shall participate in the review and recommendation of relevant policies, and shall facilitate and monitor the devolution of function to the LGUs (Sections 16 and 17).
  4. Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO). A MENRO shall be created, including the position for the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer. The MENRO shall facilitate the preparation of management plans, recommendrelevant policies to the Board, evaluate applications for forest management agreements, monitor the performance of holders of all tenurial instruments, and may recommend appropriate action to the DENR regarding policy implementation. The MENRO shall also exercise visitorial powers over the forestlands (Sections 18 to 20).
  5. Forest Management Committees (FMC). A Forest Management Committee shall be created under the Municipal Development Council. Municipalities and cities falling within the same watershed continuum shall form a similar committee within the Provincial Development Council, while provinces falling under the same continuum will create a committee within the Regional Development Council. These committees shall be responsible for the preparation of the required overall management plans in relation to the direction set by their respective Forest Boards (Section 21).

What are the modes of management agreements proposed under this bill?

Qualified Filipino citizens, associations, and corporations are encouraged to help conserve, utilize, and manage production forestlands and their resources through the following:

  1. Coproduction agreement. Both the state and private entity agree to provide inputs and share the products or their equivalent in cash.
  2. Joint venture agreement. The state and an entity will organize a jointventure company and will have equity shares. The state shall also be entitled to a share in the gross output.
  3. Production sharing agreement. The entity provides all the necessary financing, technology, management and personnel. On the other hand, the state grants the entity the exclusive right to conduct forestry development activities within the contract area. The exclusive right, however, is not equivalent to a title. The state, as owner of the forest product, also shares in the production whether in cash or kind (Sections 4 and 54).

How do we ensure that forest management efforts are sustained?

  1. Inclusion of biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest management in school curricula. With support from LGUs, NGOs, media, and other organizations, DENR, Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and stateowned and private universities and colleges shall formulate and implement a nationwide program for a sustained public information and advocacy campaign for forest and natural resources conservation and sustainable forest development and management.
  2. The DepEd shall include subjects on environment, forest and natural resources in the curricula for elementary and high school education. The CHED shall likewise include mandatory ecology and environment courses in the general education curricula (Section 86).
  3. Formal forestry, agroforestry and environmental education. The CHED, in collaboration with the DENR, the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC), related education networks, and the duly accredited national professional foresters organization shall actively pursue the rationalization of formal forestry education by assigning higher weights on non timber extraction subjects such as natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, wildlife conservation and management, and community development. The licensure exam shall require minimum units on forest restorationrelated subjects and the establishment of centers of excellence in forestry and environmental education (Section 87).
  4. Continuing education on forestry. The PRC Board of Examiners for Foresters and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) shall provide the guidelines for a non-formal program in continuing education in forestry. In cooperation with academic institutions, the Department shall develop the infrastructures to institutionalize nonformal continuing education for the forestry sector (Section 88).
  5. Training centers. In coordination with TESDA, DepEd, CHED and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and other relevant institutions, stakeholders and local communities, the Department shall establish and institutionalize a network of training centers in strategic parts of the country to provide regular and uptodate training on the various aspects of sustainable forest management and restoration to forest guards, LGUs, NGOs, local communities, and indigenous peoples (Section 89).

Where will the funding come from?

The amount necessary to initially implement the provisions of this Act shall be charged against the appropriations of the DENR in the current General Appropriations Act. A share from the VAT on oil and natural gas, emission testing tax, flood control tax, road users tax, and the EPIRA environment fund shall also be appropriated to fund provisions in this Act. Other sums shall thereafter be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.

The funding for local government units shall be taken from their internal revenue allotment (IRA) and other sources of income, including the income derived from shares from the different modes of agreement (Section 121).

  • Local government units.
    1. The LGU Comprehensive Land Use Plans shall fund the preparation and implementation of the forestland use and watershed continuum management plan. (Section 13).
    2. The LGU shall allot funds for restoration, either by its own or through permit, license, or agreement in protection forestlands (Section 42).
    3. The LGU or Department shall furnish funds to reforest volunteered private lands in a coproduction agreement (Section 49).
    4. The LGU will administer a Forest Conservation and Development Fund (FCDF) for forest protection, restoration and management, including the operations of the municipal forest management boards, rehabilitation and preservation of watershed areas, communitybased forest management programs, and information and educational campaigns, as well as scholarship programs, policy research and development.At least seventy percent (70%) of the forest charges and government share in all products removed from the forestlands, rentals, proceeds from sales of confiscated forest products including conveyances, fines and penalties, and administrative fees collected shall be set aside for the build up of the FCDF. The fund may also be augmented by domestic and foreign grants, donations, and endowments from various sources (Section 76).
    5. Each city and municipality shall allocate funds for the planting, care and maintenance of trees or perennial shrubs in “greenbelts” or “green spaces” such as street sides and center islands, among others (Section 78).
  • Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
    1. The Department shall reasonably compensate people for reforestation and/or management activities in protection forestlands and extend the necessary assistance (Section 48).
    2. Congress shall allocate funds to DENR for the coordination of a campaign to promote community ecological awareness, including the preparation of informational and educational materials (Section 86).
  • Subdivision owners. They shall provide the funds for the establishment of tree parks (Section 78).
  • Department of Public Works and Highways. The DPWH shall fund the planting and maintenance of appropriate trees along the road/highway or irrigation canals as landscaped areas (Section 78).
  • Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Science and Technology, Commission on Higher Education, and State Universities and Colleges. The DENR, DOST, CHED, and SUCs shall each provide funds to implement research and technology development plans and transfer programs (Section 85).
  • Congress. The Senate and House of Representatives shall provide DENR with funds for the demarcation and delimitation of land classification lines. They shall also provide funds for the Congressional Oversight Committee (Section 9 and 119).

*The section numbers are based on House Bill No. 3638, the latest version of the Forest Resources Bill, as filed by Rep. Arthur Defensor Jr.

View the rest of the FRB in PDF here.

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