Monday, January 31, 2011


I've most of the time been a spectator, especially when it comes to public or political issues. This time, however, I'm taking a stand and saying my piece as a concerned citizen of this country.

You've probably read recent newspaper articles saying that our president will impose a total log ban because of the spate of flooding and landslides in various areas. Recall the tragic Aurora, Quezon landslide or typhoon Ondoy which crippled our nation two years back.

Yes, we should be alarmed. Natural calamities like these must be avoided at all cost. But for the president to take the convenient "deforestation being the culprit so let's altogether ban the cutting of trees" line may be pretty simplistic, and excuse the word, stupid. It's a knee-jerk approach which if enforced will be more disastrous than all calamities combined. And who will suffer? Our children and grandchildren.

Point one. Scientists themselves are one in saying that too much rainwater will definitely cause the soil to loosen and unfasten the roots of trees, causing landslides and floods.

Imagine a whole year's supply of rain falling in three days. That's what happened in Aurora, Quezon. The earth just could not absorb all that downpour so the soil just had to give. Mind you, we will experience more and more of these types of rainfall because of global warming. The recent China and Australia (Brisbane) floods are attributed to just too much rainfall but we didn't hear news of their governments all of a sudden banning all logging activities. Saudi Arabia also had its recent flood and it doesn't have any forests!

Point two. Logging has two faces. One is named "illegal," the other "sustainable." A distinction should be made between the two.

Illegal loggers mercilessly cut trees and never bother to replant. And these are the guys who never pay taxes but give monetary incentives to law enforcers and government officials who see-hear-speak-no-evil even as those giant logs pass by. But whose fault is it that this evil proliferates? Look at areas in the Philippines where there's supposedly no logging, yet are totally denuded.

I've lived long enough in this country to conclude that our greatest weakness is the authorities' inability or refusal to manage. They simply don't impose the law! Policemen position themselves at intersections not to make sure the rules are followed but to trap unsuspecting folks whom they can mulct for breakfast or lunch money. (Although most of us are guilty too of violating these rules, and worse wiggling out of this sticky situation by bribery.)

So I say, go after the illegals and really enforce the law.

Let's visit "sustainable."

Do you know that in certain parts of our country, lush forest lands are still in tact because they are managed well? One good example: Sirawai Plywood and Lumber Corporation in Zamboanga.
Majority of SPLC's vegetative cover are forest trees and residual forests. Its having added fruit and rubber trees to the mix has enabled the company to provide regular sources of livelihood for the communities in the area, bringing prosperity to these once economically downtrodden barangays. The presence of fruit and rubber trees have also encouraged residents to be more vigilant against illegal loggers and kaingineros who may want to enter the plantation. There's no better way to guard our forests than to involve residents who also make their livelihood off the produce of these plantations. And we have more of these integrated forest management areas being managed by responsible corporations providing employment opportunities to local residents.

Imagine these companies' impact: Two million employees. P30 billion investments. P2 billion taxes paid. And they replenish the forests!

Point three. Without responsible forest managers investing in scientific and technologically-advanced practices and equipment, as well as people development, our forests--- once left to the elements and conniving illegal loggers and law enforcers--- will in the blink of an eye just fizzle out.

Let's face it, the Philippines is a population gone amok, registering one of the fastest growths in a territory so tiny we could choke. Add to that our high percentage of poverty. Not surprisingly, those in the economic fringes of our society look for livelihood anyhow and anywhere they can. It's a survival issue. So they move upland where one can get out of the authorities' radar while sequestering a territory. This is how it's always been with kaingineros. They invade unguarded forests, burn trees---making the soil unsuited to replant forest trees---and turning these once lush areas to rice and corn farms.

Point four. And this is where we come full circle. Do you know that we cannot, will not, survive without using our trees. Let me explain. I once believed that to save the environment, we should not cut trees. Utterly exceedingly wrong! We need to cut and use our trees; turn them into wood for construction or furniture or paper bags.

But we must replant.

That's why we need responsible forest managers. Let's leave it to the private sector to manage, replenish and guard our forests. With their resources, companies could do that. Then let the government police, monitor and control, and take the culprits to task. That's what working together means.

Why do we need to use wood? Experts tell us that global warming is caused by too much carbon footprint or pollution such as industrial and car emissions, burning of fuel, energy generation to produce steel, cement, plastic, etc. No wonder the increasing el nino and la nina episodes worldwide, their intensity and frequency we have not experienced before. To produce cement or steel, for example, tons of oil or coal must be burned. That doesn't happen with wood. Ergo, we must use more wood. Ergo, what we should aim for is sustainable forest management.

Forests can be replenished. That's the whole point. Leave them to the elements, kaingineros, illegal loggers and conniving law enforcers and we will very soon see them kaput. Our survival as a nation depends on it.

And what we expect from government is not knee-jerk solutions but a serious intent to manage and not leave its development partners in the cold. Mr. President, for the sake of our country, let those who have the resource and the capability help you manage it well.

Now, you connect the points.