DENR Secretary Paje sees dawning of new era in PH’s timber industry with EO 23

A February 9, 2011 press release by the Department of National Defense
With the issuance of Executive Order (EO) 23, President Aquino has effectively committed his administration to preserving a good balance of forest for perpetuity by shifting timber harvesting in tree plantations only.
This was stressed by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, adding that the EO 23 has also put the country’s  wood industry “on a new track” by ending its dependence for timber on natural forests, which are now “overstressed” by  harvesting activities.

“What the President is saying is: leave the natural forest to future generations and, at least, let them thrive with their other uses like habitat for wildlife or gene  pool for the country’s precious endemic flora and fauna species,” explained Paje.
Paje said that with EO 23, timber extraction has now become a purely “what-you-plant-is-what-you-cut enterprise” especially for the 145 holders of the 25-year Industrial Forest Management Agreements (IFMA), which cover 1.02 million hectares of forestlands. Of that, 209,180 hectares are classified as natural forest.
“In summary, you cannot harvest what you did not plant,” he pointed out, referring to the order.
Paje also downplayed the impact which EO 23 might have on the local wood supply, noting that by expanding the harvesting operations in tree plantations can very well fill up for  wood sourced from natural forests, which account for some  108,000 cubic meters annually.
Paje added that under a new regime in forest resource development, the country’s shift to tree plantation development has been given the needed push in recognizing the sustainability of tree plantations as a viable source of timber.
Paje likewise said that EO 23 has elevated forest protection as a major activity of the state’s armed apparatus, namely the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), citing section 3 of the order which specifically orders the two to play a major role in the creation of anti-illegal logging task force.
“With the order, the President has raised the two agencies’ role in protecting the country’s environment, particularly the forest, from a minor to a major function,” Paje noted, adding that the Defense Secretary and the Chiefs of the AFP and PNP are to be part of the task force, to be chaired by the DENR secretary.
Section 3 of the order mandates the task force “to take the lead in the anti-illegal logging campaign and ensure the implementation of (the order) under the supervision of the DENR.”