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The Philippines’

Green Environment
September 2005


1. How much of the country’s total land is classified as forest land?

About 50 percent or 15 million hectares of the Philippines’ total land area is considered
forest land. Approximately 47 percent of the land is classified as alienable and disposable,
the rest remains unclassified. 1

2. How much of the country’s forest OF FORESTS AND TREES

cover remains?
• Trees keep air fresh by absorbing carbon
In 1900, an estimated 21 million hectares of the dioxide and producing oxygen.
country’s total land area (30 million hectares) had • Rough estimates show that 18 to 20
forest cover. This declined to 5.4 million hectares hectares of watershed with good forest
(or 18.3 percent) by 1988. Recent official cover can supply the annual water needs
estimates showed the country’s forest cover of 1 hectare of irrigated rice field.
increasing to 7 million hectares. 2 An alternative • One hectare of natural forest can
estimate (from the Food and Agriculture sequester almost 1 ton of carbon per year
Organization) places the figure at 5.7 million (Lasco, et al., 2000).
• One hectare of gmelina plantation can
hectares only. DENR says the rise in forest cover
capture about 8 tons of carbon/year
could be attributed to strong public awareness (Lasco, et al., 2000). This is because
about the values of forests and the trees, trees in new plantations undergo rapid
especially after the Ormoc flashfloods in 1991. growth and, thus, absorb more carbon
which they need to produce food.
3. How bad is land degradation in the • Two mature trees can provide enough
country? oxygen for a family of four.
• A large tree has the cooling power of 10 air
According to a 2004 World Bank Report, of the conditioners. Trees lower temperature by
country’s total land area, 76 percent faces some providing shade as well as evaporating
water in their leaves.
extent of degradation. More than 5 million
• Trees cut down noise pollution by acting
hectares are seriously eroded, resulting in 30-50 as sound barriers.
percent reduction in soil productivity and water • Trees improve water quality by slowing
retention capacity. and filtering rain water as well as
protecting aquifers and watersheds.

1 DENR-Forest Management Bureau, 2004

2 Based on 2002 satellite images of the entire country

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4. What are some of the consequences of land degradation?

The same World Bank Report said that from

1988 to 2000, there was a doubling in the
economic value of nutrient loss due to soil
degradation (from P635 million in 1988 to P1.16
billion in 2000). To compensate for this,
fertilizer use increased from P41.7 million in
1988 to P154 million in 2000 3 . The Report
added that land degradation has played an
increasingly significant role in the incidence of
natural disasters, with direct damage caused by
disasters estimated at P15 billion per year
(between 1970 and 2000).

5. How “rich” is the country’s biodiversity?

The Philippines is one of the world’s 18 “megadiversity” countries, which together account
for between 60 and 70 percent of global biodiversity. However, the country has been
identified as a biodiversity hotspot, because of rapid deforestation and conversion of forest
land into other uses. According to Haribon, on an acre-for-acre basis, the Philippines ranks
first in the world on the number of endangered endemic species of mammals and birds.
Fifty-five of the 70 threatened bird species in the world are found only in the Philippines. The
Philippines needs at least 45 percent forest cover to regulate its natural processes.

6. How many Filipinos reside in or near forests?

A 2004 World Bank reports says of the 52

percent of the country’s population living in rural
areas, 22 percent reside in or near forests.
Majority of these Filipinos rely on forest
resources for their livelihood.

These communities are consulted when plans

related to forest management are prepared.
One such plan is the Forest Land Use Plan
(FLUP) where the DENR and the local
government unit (LGU) take the lead in the
process, in consultation with communities. The
USAID-assisted Philippine Environmental
Governance (EcoGov) Project and the DENR
help some Northern Luzon LGUs prepare and
implement their FLUPs.

3 Bureau of Soils and Water Management, 2004

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7. What is the purpose of a Forest Land Use Plan?

Coming up with recommendations and agreements on land

allocations to close “open access” is the primary purpose of a
Forest Land Use Plan. This plan, prepared after thorough study
and consultations between and among various stakeholders,
provides the basis for assigning forests/forest lands under
different management, tenure or allocation arrangements in
order to better protect and manage forests.

8. Who allocates public forests and forest lands?

“Allocation” is assigning to a responsible resource manager

certain sections of forest lands for a specific purpose. Under
the Regalian doctrine, only the State can allocate the forests
and forest lands for protection, development and management
either on a permanent or temporary basis. Allocation is done by the
State, mainly through the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR), Congress, Office of the President, or the National
Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

9. Why allocate forests and forest lands?

The State “allocates” public forests and forest lands to various interested individuals,
organizations or entities to put these areas into effective “on-site” management. Land
allocation responds to the need to close “open access” forests/forest lands. Open access
areas are those not under any management arrangement where anybody, even with no
authority, can just get in and out and exploit their resources without having any
accountability. “Open access” also refers to areas already allocated but have been
abandoned by their assigned but negligent managers.

10. What are the various categories of allocation for public lands?

There are five major categories of allocation/tenure instruments for public lands, many of
which are issued by the DENR 4 . These are:

• Allocation to communities (such as Community-based Forest Management

• Allocation to private sector (such as Industrialized Forest Management
• Allocation to local governments (such as communal forests, community
watersheds, co-management agreements);
• Allocation to address needs for public good (such as watershed reservations,
biodiversity reserves, other protected areas like the Kan-Laon National Park);
• Allocation to other government agencies (such as military reservations,
academic research agreements, land grants to state colleges/universities like the
grant to the UPLB of jurisdiction over the Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve).

4 For examples and descriptions of commonly issued allocation instruments, see Allocating Forest Lands pamphlet, included in your media

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Alienable or disposable land – Those lands of the public domain that have been limited, classified
and declared as such and available for disposition under Commonwealth Act No. 141, as
amended, otherwise known as the Public Land Act.
Ancestral domains – All areas generally belonging to indigenous cultural communities (ICCs)/
indigenous peoples (IPs) comprising lands, inland waters, coastal areas and natural resources
therein, held under claim of ownership, occupied or possessed by ICCs/IPs, by themselves or
through their ancestors, communally or individually, since time immemorial.
Ancestral lands – Lands occupied, possessed and used by individuals, families and clans who are
members of the ICCs/IPs since time immemorial.
Agricultural lands - (in forest lands) Those areas which are extensively used for the production of
cash crops, sustenance crops and fodder.
Agroforestry – A land use management system which combines the production of agricultural crops,
forest trees and/or livestock simultaneously or sequentially on the same unit of land for the
purpose of creating employment opportunities for upland farm labor, producing raw materials for
agriculture or forest-based industries, providing food and other products for home consumption
and improving ecological conditions in the watersheds.
Aquifer – A geologic formation that holds water underground.
Biological diversity or biodiversity – The variety of life forms found on this planet: the number of
species, the genetic diversity within species and in the different ecosystems that they form.
Brushlands – Refer to any tract of the production forest land covered dominantly with shrubby
CENRO (Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer) – The highest DENR official at
the district level (would usually have jurisdiction over two or more municipalities).
Civil reservations – Lands of the public domain, which have been proclaimed by the President of the
Philippines for specific purposes, such as town sites, resettlement areas.
Deforestation – The loss of tropical forests due to logging, shifting cultivation, grazing, etc. It leads to
soil erosion and flooding. In the Philippines, deforestation is occurring at an alarming rate: from
1989 to 1995 alone, forest destruction was in the average of 130,000 hectares per year.
Ecology – The study of relationships among organisms and their environments, including all living and
non-living components; the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their
Ecosystem – A community of organisms interacting as a functional unit; an ecosystem can be large or
small, all elements of which are interrelated regardless of the size. Left to nature, an ecosystem
will achieve a balanced state in which plants and animals live together.
El Niño – A poorly understood recurrent climatic phenomenon that affects the Pacific coast of South
America but appears to have a dramatic influence on weather patterns much farther afield as well.
One effect is droughts in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, and a resulting drop in
agricultural production.
Endangered species – Plant or animal species so few in number that they may become extinct.
Endemic species – Plants or animals peculiar to a locality or region, or found nowhere else in the
world. In the Philippines, the level of endemism in the flora and fauna are extremely high. For
example, 172 (44%) of the 395 bird species which breed in the Philippines are endemic to the
country, as are 115 (67%) of the 180 mammals, 214 (73%) of the 298 reptiles and amphibians,
and 3,500 (44%) of the 8,000 flowering plants.
Environment – The sum of all external conditions and influences that affect the development and,
ultimately, the survival of an organism or group of organisms.
Forest – Land with an area of more than 0.5 hectare and tree crown (or equivalent stocking level) of
more than 10 percent.
Forest lands – Those lands of the public domain which have been classified as such by the Public
Lands Act and all unclassified lands of the public domain.

5Most of these definitions were based on the Green Guide published by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in
1998; the rest were adopted from the DENR-NRMP’s Forest Land Use Guidelines published in February 1997.

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Forest land use – Refers to the manner of utilization of forest lands, including their allocation,
development and management. The primary land uses of forest lands are protection and
production. Production forest lands are subclassified, according to their use, into the following
categories: timber production, agriculture, agroforestry, mineral production, grazing, residential,
resettlement, and other uses (industrial, commercial, fishfarm, fishponds).
Forest resources – All natural resources, whether biomass such as plants and animals or non-bio-
mass such as soil and water, as well as the intangible services and values present in forest lands
or other lands devoted for forest purposes.
Grasslands – Refer to forest lands predominantly vegetated with grasses, devoid of trees or with very
few isolated trees.
Grazing lands – Forest lands designated, in view of their terrain and vegetation, for the raising of
livestock. They are likewise known as rangelands.
Industrial Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) – The Philippine government’s first step toward
replacing the Timber License Agreement (TLA) system with “a more proactive, rational, equitable,
and sustainable” management agreement for the country’s forest resources that would involve
local communities. Defined as “the agreement entered into by the DENR and a qualified person, to
occupy and possess, in consideration of a specified rental, any forest land of the public domain in
order to establish an industrial forest plantation.” It has a life of 25 years, renewable for another
Industrial tree plantation – Any forest land extensively planted to tree crops primarily to supply the
raw material requirements of existing or proposed wood processing plants and related industries.
Kaingin (slash-and-burn) farming – A farming practice where the forest is cleared, burnt, harvested.
National park – A forest reservation essentially of natural wilderness character which has been
withdrawn from settlement, occupancy or any form of exploitation except in conformity with
approved management plan and set aside as such exclusively to conserve the area or preserve
the scenery, the natural and historic objects, wild animals and plants therein and to provide
enjoyment of these features in such areas.
NIPAS (National Integrated Protected Areas System) – The classification and administration of all
designated protected areas to maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems, to
preserve genetic diversity, to ensure sustainable use of resources found therein, and to maintain
their natural conditions to the greatest extent possible. The NIPAS was established by RA No.
7586, known as the NIPAS Act.
Old growth forest – Natural forest which has not been subjected to timber harvesting or extraction.
Also known as virgin forest.
PENRO (Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer) – The highest DENR official at
the provincial level. There is a PENRO in each province, except the Autonomous Region in
Muslim Mindanao which administers its own autonomous environmental management program.
Protected areas – Identified portions of land and water set aside by reason of their unique physical
and biological significance, managed to enhance biological diversity and protected against
destructive human exploitation. The NIPAS Act has established the following categories of
protected areas: strict nature reserve, natural park, natural monument, wildlife sanctuary,
protected landscape and seascapes, resource reserve, natural biotic areas, and other categories
established by law, conventions or international agreements which the Philippines is a signatory.
RED (Regional Executive Director) – The highest-level DENR official at the regional level,
overseeing both the PENRO and CENRO. The DENR has regional executive offices in all regions
except the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Reforestration – The act of planting and caring for trees on bare or open land which used to be
covered with forest growth.
Residual or second growth forest – Refers to natural forest which has been subjected to timber
harvesting or extraction.
Watershed – An area or region bounded peripherally by mountain ridges and drained by a stream or
fixed body of water and its tributaries having a common outlet for surface run-off. It is synonymous
with a catchment area or drainage basin.
Watershed reservation/forest reserve/watershed forest reserve – Refer to a defined area in forest
lands that has been proclaimed by law as such, primarily to establish adequate vegetative cover
that would prevent erosion, conserve water and nurture wildlife.

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