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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

House approves proposed Sustainable Forest Management Act
12-December-2011, 07:47:32 AM

The House of Representatives has approved on second reading a measure providing for the protection, rehabilitation and sustainable management of the country’s forests.

House Bill 5485, to be known as the Sustainable Forest Management Act of 2011, seeks to provide policy direction in the formulation of strategies and programs for the protection and sustainable management of forest lands to enhance forest ecosystems services.

"The use of our natural resources requires a balancing act between present and future consumption, especially amidst scarcity and depletion," Rep. Susan Yap (2nd District, Tarlac), a co-author of the bill, said. "The government must be mindful of the needs of future generations and must therefore practice conservation to ensure long-term sustainability."

Yap said the measure shall adopt the Sustainable Forest Ecosystems Management (SFEM) strategy as the overarching policy framework for all plans and programs in the forestry sector.

The bill prohibits the harvest of timber without authority, use of illegally cut timber in government projects, damage to residual trees during harvesting, grazing of livestock on forestlands, unlawful occupation of forestlands, illegal conversion of municipal parks, communal forests and tree parks, falsification of reports, inventory scaling and forest survey, unlawful operation of sawmills, unlawful possession of devices used by forest officers, unauthorized introduction of logging tools and equipment inside forestlands, and non-payment/non remittance of forest charges.

The bill also identifies the river basins and component watersheds as basic planning units in forest resource management and recognizes the administrative jurisdiction of the Local Government Unit (LGU) and owners of the ancestral domain as the basic management unit in forestry.

It likewise prioritizes the protection and rehabilitation of forest ecosystems; identifies as priority objectives the regeneration and/or restoration of natural forests through tree planting of indigenous species to expand forest cover; and underscores good governance as a necessary condition for effective, efficient, and sustainable forest ecosystems management, development and conservation.

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City), also an author of the bill, said the bill seeks "to restore our forests to its old grandeur and richness by implementing a plan for sustainable forest management."

According to Rodriguez, "as of year 2000, the leading cause of forest disturbance is illegal cutting, with a total of 4,920 hectares of land destroyed, the highest incidence since the 1990s."

"There were two major causes in the decline of stocks of forest resources during the period 1988 to 1994. The country lost resources worth P48.6 billion to harvesting and other logging activities, while the conversion of forestland to non-forest use accounted for P20.4 billion in losses," Rodriguez said.

"Also contributing to the decline in stocks were forest fires, accounting for P439.7 million, and the natural death of trees (stand mortality) which accounted for P5.9 billion. Demand for agricultural land is also one of the main reasons that forests continue to be erased at the rate of 13 million hectares a year. By 2005, forests were-estimated at 47% of the total land, from 51% in 1990. From 1990 until 2000, the rate of deforestation of the Philippines is 1.4%. The Philippines is the highest among the Southeast Asian Nations together with Myanmar with the same rate," Rodriguez added.

House Bill 5485 is a substitute of House Bills 45, 84, 487, 845, 2176, 3103, 3146, 3249, 3462, 3485, 3596, 3602, and 3638 of Rodriguez, Yap and Reps. Maximo Rodriguez, Jr. (Party-list, Abante Mindanao), Juan Edgardo Angara (Lone District, Aurora), Angelo Palmones (Party List, AGHAM), Danilo Ramon Fernandez (1st District, Laguna), Erico Aumentado (2ndDistrict, Bohol), Iggy Arroyo (5th District, Negros Occidental), Jesus Celeste (1st District, Pangasinan), Teddy Brawner-Baguilat Jr.(Lone District, Ifugao), Mel Senen Sarmiento (1st District, Eastern Samar), Diosdado Arroyo (2nd District, Camarines Sur), Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd District, Pampanga) and Arthur Defensor Jr. (3rd District, Iloilo).

Additional authors are Reps. Ma. Amelita A. Calimbas-Villarosa (Lone District, Occidental Mindoro), Marcelino Teodoro (1st District, Marikina City), Eduardo Gullas (1st District, Cebu), Ben Evardone (Lone District, Samar), Antonio Kho (2nd District, Masbate), Irvin Alcala (2nd District Quezon), Francisco Emmanuel Ortega III (Party-list, ABONO), Cesar Sarmiento (Lone District, Catanduanes), Christopher Co (Party-list, AKO BICOL), Daryl Grace Abayon (Party-list, AANGAT TAYO), Rodel Batocabe (Party-list, AKO BICOL), Alfredo Garbin Jr. (Party-list, AKO BICOL), Raymond Democrito Mendoza (Party-list, TUCP), Victor Yu (1st District, Zamboanga del Sur), Edgar San Luis (4th District, Laguna), Kaka Bag-ao (Party-list, Akbayan), Jim Hataman-Salliman (Lone District, Basilan), Bernardo Vergara (Lone District, Baguio City), Teddy Casiño (Party-list, Bayan Muna), Maximo Dalog (Lone District, Mountain Province), Francisco Matugas (1st District, Surigao del Norte), Deogracias Ramos Jr. (2nd District, Sorosogon), Peter “Sr. Pedro” Unabia (1st District, Misamis Oriental), Fernando Gonzales (3rd District, Albay), Joel Roy Duavit (1st District, Rizal), Nancy Catamco (2nd District, North Cotabato), Henedina Abad (Lone District, Batanes), Isidro Ungab (3rd District, Davao City), Ma. Jocelyn Bernos (Lone District, Abra), Napoleon Dy (3rd District, Isabela), Florencio Miraflores (Lone District, Aklan), Jesus Sacdalan (1st District, North Cotabato), Rodolfo Valencia (1st District, Oriental Mindoro), Jeci Lapus (3rd District, Tarlac), Bai Sandra Sema (1st District, Maguindanao and Cotabato City), Mylene Garcia-Albano (2nd District, Davao City), Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. (Lone District, Dasmariñas City), Sonny Collantes (3rd District, Batangas), Paolo Javier (Lone District, Antique), Elmer Panotes (2nd District, Camarines Norte), Antonio Del Rosario (1st District, Capiz), Eleanor Bulut-Begtang (Lone District, Apayao), Jesus Emmanuel Paras (1st District, Bukidnon), Herminia Roman (1st District, Bataan), Philip Pichay (1st District, Surigao del Sur), Joseph Emilio Abaya (1st District, Cavite) and Hermilando Mandanas (2nd District, Batangas).