P h i l i p p i n e s Brief

Forest rehabilitation in the Philippines - which road to take?


Forest cover in the Philippines decreased from 34% in the 1970s to 22% in 1987, and remaining forest cover is concentrated in Palawan, Mindanao and the uplands of Luzon. The last forest resource inventory in 1987 showed a forest cover of 6.6 M ha, leaving 10.8 M ha of possible degraded forest land of the 17.4 M ha of designated forest land (> 18% slope). Estimates and distribution of actual area in degraded open brushlands and grasslands are highly variable. An idea of possible extent of degraded areas is indicated by the land cover map to the left produced from SPOT images from 1998-2000. Most of the area is mountainous and faces severe erosion problems with vegetation removal. About 20 M people live and depend on the forested uplands. The main causes of deforestation and land degradation include intensive logging over decades, upland migration, agricultural expansion, development policy failures, and inequitable land distribution. Declining wood availability, heavy soil erosion and flashfloods led to logging bans on primary forests with concessions reduced to a few sustainable operations and massive reforestation efforts in the last few decades.

Past and ongoing rehabilitation initiatives
First formal rehabilitation efforts in the Philippines can be traced back to reforestation by students of the campus of the University of Philippines at Los Banos in 1910. This was followed by numerous Government-initiated projects that involved the planting of trees to reforest denuded areas. By 1973, there were 91 government reforestation projects (46 in Luzon, 31 in Visayas and 14 in Mindanao) with reforestation funds derived from timber concessions. Some private companies (such as Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines PICOP and Provident Tree Farms) reforested via tree plantations within their concession areas. PICOP also pioneered smallholder tree farms among upland farmers near the concession through partnerships.

The 1970s saw the birth of social/community forestry with programs such as Forest Occupancy Management (1971), the Family Approach to Reforestation (1971), Communal Tree Farm (1974), and the Integrated Social Forestry Program (1982). From the late 1970s-80s, there were numerous community forestry initiatives funded by agencies such as USAID, the World Bank, Ford Foundation and GTZ. There was also major NGO pioneering work on agroforestry and agriculture. In 1986, a 14-year National Forestation Program was launched with a target area of 1.4 M ha to be reforested by 2000. This program was given a boost by the ADB/OECF loan for $240 M in 1988 for what became the Forestry Sector Project. Under this project, traditional methods of reforestation gave way to contract reforestation by families, communities, corporations, academic institutions, NGOs and LGUs. It also included watershed rehabilitation and encouragement of industrial reforestation through new agreements.

The 1990s continued to see numerous community-based and integrated development projects funded by ADB, JBIC, World Bank, ITTO, FAO, KFW and others; and executed by the state, NGOs, LGUs, and people's organisations. Community based forest management through different types of tenurial instruments was adopted as the national strategy for reversing the destruction of Philippine's remaining natural forests and for rehabilitating degraded lands. Besides social and community forestry, reforestation activities have also included large-scale government and industrial plantations and private tree farming. The latter has cropped up spontaneously in response to market demand, particularly in Mindanao, Luzon, and Cebu. It has been suggested that private land reforestation in the last decades may have actually led to increased forest cover in places. New forest cover inventories that are underway could help clarify the situation.

Project # years Target coverage Funding Agency Executing Agency Target Beneficiaries Expenses (USD)
Watershed Rehabilitation/Forestry Sector Project 1988-92 4 507,657 ha ADB/OECF & GOP DENR   240 M + 43 M
Watershed rehabilitation/Forestry Sector Project 1993-2003 10 68,663 ha
JBIC and GOP DENR Upland and coastal communities 55 M + 25 M
Camiguin Sustainable Community-based Reforestation Project 1994-97 3 300 ha Spanish AECI, PRRM/ IPADE Philippine NGO PRRM and Spanish NGO IPADE Adjacent Farming communities 341,223 + 86,900
Philippine-German Community Forestry Project - Quirino (CFPQ) 1994-2001 7 820.76 ha KFW, GOP, Quirino Government GTZ and Quirino Government Upland farmers and LGUs 7.563 M + 1.026 M + 9.0 M (in kind)
Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resources Management Project (CHARM) Reforestation Component 1999-2003 4 16 municipalities IFAD, ADB and GOP DENR regional office - CAR Communities 4.267 M + 976,080 + 892,466
Southern Mindanao Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (SMICZMP) 1999-2005 6 9210 ha JBIC & GOP DENR Coastal Zone dwellers, Upland dwellers, LGUs 22.710 M + 7.730 M
Developing tropical forest resources through Community-Based Forest Management 2001-02 1 3,000 ha ITTO and GOP DENR Communities 913,285 + 43,850

Source: Questionnaires, project documents, literature

Key challenges and questions
There have been a wide range of players involved in forest rehabilitation in the Philippines in the last few decades including the national government, NGOs, private companies, LGUs, local communities and private land owners. Approaches have been equally diverse with expansion from traditional large-scale government reforestation projects and industrial tree plantations to contract reforestation, community based initiatives, integrated development and livelihood projects, agroforestry, and private tree farming. Results have been mixed with some promising cases and others not quite so in each of the approaches, depending on the circumstances. Also in general, some approaches such as private tree farming have been more popular and rapidly adopted than others. Ensuring long-term sustainability appears to be one of the biggest challenges facing many of the initiatives. Most evaluation is based on target areas and survival rates of plantings, and often little is known about the environmental and socio-economic impacts.

The diversity of past approaches provides a valuable opportunity to learn some important lessons for guiding future rehabilitation efforts in the Philippines. Which roads look most promising and under what particular conditions or range of conditions, which ones are likely to lead to successful rehabilitation and with minimal negative impacts? What are the underlying constraints and opportunities associated with the different approaches and scenarios and what institutional and socio-economic incentives would be required for enhancing long-term sustainability and adoption?


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