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