DENR sets PHL for­est-ex­pan­sion tar­get for low-car­bon devt path

Business Mirror - - BM REPORTS - By Jonathan L. Mayuga @jonl­mayuga

THE Philip­pines needs to sus­tain its mas­sive tree-plant­ing pro­gram and ex­pand its for­est cover by an av­er­age of 300,000 hectares ev­ery year to en­sure a low-car­bon devel­op­ment path, an of­fi­cial of the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources (DENR) said.

Achiev­ing such an­nual fores­t­ex­pan­sion goal is cru­cial in ful­fill­ing the coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ment un­der the Paris cli­mate ac­cord, specif­i­cally to re­duce car­bon emis­sion by 70 per­cent by 2030 un­der a “busi­ness- as- usual sce­nario” to help limit global tem­per­a­ture in­crease be­low 1.5 de­grees, Di­rec­tor Ri­cardo L. Calderon of the DENR’s For­est Man­age­ment Bureau told the Busi­nessMir­ror in an in­ter­view. The mas­sive treeplant­ing ac­tiv­i­ties will also en­sure sup­ply of raw ma­te­ri­als to sus­tain the growth of wood in­dus­try, Calderon, also na­tional co­or­di­na­tor of the Na­tional Green­ing Pro­gram said.

Based on cur­rent pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity, the Philip­pines needs to pro­duce an ad­di­tional 3.5 mil­lion cu­bic me­ters of tim­ber, logs or lum­ber or cu­mu­la­tively its round wood equiv­a­lent ev­ery year.

He said the coun­try cur­rently pro­duces only around 1 mil­lion cu­bic me­ters of round wood as against the es­ti­mated 4.5- mil­lion- cu­bic- me­ter es­ti­mated cur­rent de­mand by the wood in­dus­try for as­sorted wood and wood- based prod­ucts, in­clud­ing lum­ber, ply­wood and ve­neer.

“For­est ex­pan­sion is the only way to hit the coun­try’s am­bi­tious car­bon- emis­sion- reduction tar­get with­out com­pro­mis­ing targeted growth in terms of GDP,” he said.

Of the 70- per­cent “con­di­tional” car­bon- reduction tar­get, 40 per­cent have, so far, been ac­counted by the gov­ern­ment. Of the 40 per­cent, 38 per­cent will come from for­est, while the re­main­ing 2 per­cent will come from en­ergy, agri­cul­ture and solid waste.

“We sub­mit­ted a 70 per­cent com­mit­ment sa reduction ng ating GHG [ green­house gas], specif­i­cally car­bon. Of the 70 per­cent, con­di­tional sub­mis­sion yun, an­chored on the ca­pac­ity- build­ing and tech­ni­cal guid­ance that could be pro­vided to us by de­vel­oped coun­tries,” he said.

Ac­count­ing for the bal­ance of 30 per­cent to hit the coun­try’s car­bon- emis­sion tar­get of 70 per­cent re­mains a big chal­lenge, Calderon said. “That is the big­ger chal­lenge for the Cli­mate Change Commission [CCC]. We could in­crease our ef­forts in for­est re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and pro­tec­tion so that we will be able to in­crease that 38 per­cent that will come from forestry,” he said.

“For us to ful­fill our com­mit­ment, we will have to in­vest more on for­est pro­tec­tion and sus­tain our re­for­esta­tion and for­est- pro­tec­tion ef­forts. This is very cru­cial. If we will be able to ex­pand our for­est by 300,000 an­nu­ally by 2030, based on our INDC [ In­tended Na­tion­ally De­ter­mined Con­tri­bu­tion] sub­mis­sion, we could safely [ say] that we are com­pli­ant as far as the signed agree­ment is con­cerned. This is a legally bind­ing treaty,” he re­minded.

Ac­cord­ing to Calderon, be­cause the Philip­pines is a de­vel­op­ing coun­try, it needs to in­crease the car­bon- ab­sorp­tion ca­pac­ity through for­est ex­pan­sion, so as not to hin­der growth with the use of more power or en­ergy by in­dus­tries. It is es­ti­mated that the coun­try’s car­bon emis­sion is in­creas­ing at an an­nual rate of 1.3 per­cent for ev­ery 1- per­cent growth in the GDP.

He said that, while there is a good prospect in shift­ing to re­new­able- en­ergy ( RE) sources, es­ti­mated car­bon- emis­sion reduction from en­ergy sec­tor will still not suf­fice, and may even af­fect growth if the coun­try will not in­vest sub­stan­tially in geo­ther­mal, so­lar and other RE projects to go with mas­sive re­for­esta­tion.

“Based on our dis­cus­sions [ with] the DENR, re­new­able en­ergy is just one of the so­lu­tions. But so as not to con­strain devel­op­ment, we need in­vest on for­est pro­tec­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion [and]… in­crease pub­lic ex­pen­di­ture in the as­pect of for­est pro­tec­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion,” Calderon added.

This, he said, will also have to in­volve in­dus­tries.

Pri­vate- sec­tor in­vest­ment, Calderon said, is needed to es­tab­lish more for­est plan­ta­tions.

“We are still ex­port­ing around 3.5 cu­bic me­ters of round wood. That is why we are en­cour­ag­ing pri­vate-sec­tor in­vest­ment, in­clud­ing back­yard tree farm­ing,” he said.

“We need to im­port 3.5 mil­lion cu­bic me­ters an­nu­ally. Pri­vate sec­tor should come in on that as­pect. That is not hap­pen­ing at the mo­ment,” he said.

The NGP, which is on its sixth and fi­nal year of im­ple­men­ta­tion this year, will be sus­tained through Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der 193, oth­er­wise known as the Ex­panded NGP.

“We re­ally need le­gal sup­ply of wood be­cause of the laws pro­hibit­ing har­vest from nat­u­ral for­est,” he said.

“We are both im­porter and ex­porter of lum­ber. When we ex­port, lo­cals [wood man­u­fac­tur­ers] are de­prived of sup­ply. In terms of raw ma­te­ri­als, ku­lang tayo. But our ex­ports, in terms of man­u­fac­tured ar­ti­cles, is giv­ing us pos­i­tive trade bal­ance,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Calderon, un­der cur­rent pol­icy en­vi­ron­ment, there is a bright prospect in es­tab­lish­ing for­est plan­ta­tions.

“Mas mataas ang pre­mium ng plan­ta­tion wood ngayon. Be­fore, a cu­bic me­ter of plan­ta­tion wood is bought per kilo [at a price of] P1,000 per kilo. Ngayon P4,000 to P4,500 per cu­bic me­ter,” he pointed out.

“We are ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing enough raw ma­te­ri­als for the wood in­dus­try. Ply­wood, ve­neer, pulp and pa­per, par­ti­cle board,” Calderon said. In fact, he added, the Philip­pines is ex­port­ing wood and wood prod­ucts, with China, Ja­pan and the US as ma­jor im­porters.

Calderon said in the wood in­dus­try road map be­ing crafted by the DENR- FMB, along with var­i­ous stake­hold­ers, the es­tab­lish­ment of more plan­ta­tions will be pro­moted.

How­ever, a ma­jor prob­lem be­ing eyed is land ten­ure, he said.

“In forestry, walang prob­lema. We have al­ready ad­dressed the prob­lems. The prob­lem is the Free, Prior and In­formed Con­sent [FPIC] process as man­dated by Ipra,” he said.

Ipra refers to Repub­lic Act 8371, or the In­dige­nous Peo­ples Rights Act, which pro­motes the right and wel­fare of in­dige­nous cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties in the Philip­pines.

Calderon said that, un­der the law, the DENR can’t is­sue per­mits for the es­tab­lish­ment of for­est foun­da­tions in lands cov­ered with Cer­tifi­cate of An­ces­tral Do­main Ti­tle (CADT), or even in lands be­ing claimed as part of an­ces­tral lands by in­dige­nous peo­ples ( IPs) with­out clear­ance from the Na­tional Commission on In­dige­nous Peo­ples ( NCIP).

Per­mit­ting re­quire­ments in­clude cer­tifi­cate of non­cov­er­age and FPIC.

NCIP is­sues cer­tifi­cate of non­cov­er­age or FPIC if the area is cov­ered by CADT or be­ing claimed by IPs, which re­quires a te­dious process of consultation with the IPs.

Calderon de­scribes the FPIC as “very ba­sic but very cru­cial re­quire­ments” un­der Ipra.

“Busi­ness per­mit, you [may be able to se­cure] within 24 hours. [For an] NCIP clear­ance, it takes longer,” he said. “In­vest­ment in for­est devel­op­ment needs faster pro­cess­ing of NCIP clear­ance.”

Ac­cord­ing to Calderon, around 4.5 mil­lion hectares of for­est are cov­ered by CADT. But to­tal land area with an­ces­tral do­main claims is es­ti­mated to be around 9 mil­lion hectares.

“Ipra law should be fa­cil­i­tated by NCIP. The process is tak­ing so long and very costly for po­ten­tial in­vestors,” he said.

He also said that IPs are some­times very de­mand­ing, which is dis­cour­ag­ing in­vestors.

Cur­rently, the coun­try’s for­est cover stands at around 7.8 mil­lion hectares. By the end of the year, be­cause of NGP, it is the­o­ret­i­cally go­ing to be 8.1 or 8.2 mil­lion hectares.

The prospect un­der E-NGP, he said, is to ex­pand by around 4.5 mil­lion hectares of the re­main­ing 7.1 mil­lion hectares of open, de­graded and de­nuded for­est by 2028.

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