Normin Wood Processing continues decline following EO#23

Jan 19, 2013

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Normin Wood Processing continues decline following EO#23

 

The production of forestry and processed wood products in Northern Mindanao continues to decline following the national government’s continued inaction to issue specific guidelines for Executive Order 23.

 

Data from the Department Environment and Natural Resources in Northern Mindanao (Region X) show saw log forest production in three (3) provinces dropped 63 percent (%) from 9,464 cubic meters (cu.m.) in the second quarter 2011 to 3,537 cu.m. for the same period in 2012.

Misamis Oriental had the biggest decline with 81 % attributed to the closure of wood processing plants due to the non-renewal of permits in compliance with Executive Order (EO) #23 issued in 2011.

 

Issued on February 01, 2011, EO 23 declared a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forests and creating the anti-illegal logging task force.

 

However it is Section 2, Sub Section 2.5 in particular which is responsible for the decline in production and exports in Region X which reads: “The DENR shall close and not allow to operate all sawmills, veneer plants and other wood processing plants who are unable to present proof of sustainable sources of legally cut logs for a period of at least five (5) years within one month from affectivity of EO 23.”

 

During the January 10, 2011 induction of the new set of officers for 2013 of the Tree Planters and Wood Processors Federation, Inc., association president Prudencio T. Plaza, Jr. disclosed that from 154 players in 2010 with an annual log requirement of 634,621 cu.m., the number of wood processing firms dropped 43 percent to only 87 as of August 31, 2011 with the log requirement volume dropping 42 percent to 365,243 cu. m..

 

A mini sawmill better known hereabouts as "bansohan".

“Hardest hit with closures were mini sawmills which declined 47% in number  from 129 in 2010 to only 68 as of August 31, 2011 and in volume by 57%  from 318,802.46 in 2010 to only 136,189.44 for the latter period,” Mr. Plaza said.

 

“I understand your dilemma but I am bound by law to comply with the marching order of the President to implement EO 23 and enforce logging moratorium in natural and residual forests,” said DENR Regional Executive Director Ruth M. Tawantawan in her keynote address. “I know the President and DENR Sec. Ramon Paje had conscientiously deliberated on whether to impose logging moratorium or not.  They know this has a tremendous effect to our economy but our forests have to breathe and grow in order for us to continuously enjoy the valuable tangible benefits – fresh air, clean water, environment aesthetics – and to restore the flourishing wood industry decades back. We have to understand the noble intent of the law.”

Private Tree Plantations

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Plaza stressed federation members now exclusively source their raw materials of falcata, gmelina, acacia and West Indian Mahogany from private tree plantations which are exempted from raw material restrictions listed in EO 23.

 

However, succeeding memoranda from DENR regarding said EO required mini sawmills who source from tree plantations to comply with the very stringent rules.  Especially troublesome for most tree processors was DENR Memorandum issued October 11, 2011 where the 5-year contract should provide a 100% tree inventory by a professional forester with corresponding maps.  Both federation and DENR-10 officials unsuccessfully sought clarifications on these matters.     Most tree plantations in the region are small farm holdings with trees occupying only a portion of their areas like farm boundaries since they also plant other crops to meet daily needs.  These small farmers cannot meet the minimum five year volume requirement of tree plantation processors, and just rely on traders who consolidate their production for processors.  Thus tree plantation processors included in succeeding DENR memoranda find it extremely difficult to comply with the required 5-year contract since most do not directly engage with small farm holdings in order to reduce costs.   Almost 90 percent of wood species processed in Northern Mindanao is Falcata (Albizia Falcataria), a fast growing tree which can be harvested within 3 to 5 years depending on the land suitability and climate.  In many cases, the quality of falcata trees deteriorate once it grows beyond 5 years. And because of this, processors are also having a hard time complying with the DENR Memorandum issued on October 11, 2011 since they cannot produce a certified inventory of trees still at seedling stage.

 

“Despite these issues, wood processors in Northern Mindanao sourcing from tree plantations have already submitted and complied with EO 23’s requirements since last year but their applications are still pending in Manila until now.” Mr. Plaza noted.

 

The federation is asking the national government to revert the processing and approval of Wood Processing Permits (WPP) to the DENR regional offices since it is very expensive especially for micro and small enterprises to continue following up their permits in Manila where only very few personnel are detailed to process applications causing further delay.


Wood Processing: Key Industry Sector and Employer

Mr. Plaza said it is in the interest of the national government to act quickly on the continued decline of the wood processing sector caused by red tape due to its significant contributions to the regional and national economies.

Since 2006, Bureau of Customs and DTI data show processed forestry products consistently ranked 5th among the major exports of Northern Mindanao (from a high of $63.34-million in 2010, $29.62-M in 2011 and $21.01-M for the first 3 quarters of 2012).

The wood processing industry in Northern Mindanao employs workers who would otherwise have trouble finding employment elsewhere like high school graduates or married women with no college degrees.

Mr. Plaza said federation members employ about 25,000 men and women who are mostly unskilled labor. The sector is also the biggest provider of wooden crates as packaging materials for fruits and vegetable including tomatoes (5-million crates annually), fresh fruits (2-million) and one million wooden pallets for industries.

 

“Northern Mindanao is the biggest producer of tomatoes and fresh pineapples in the country and its third largest producer of bananas,” Mr. Plaza stressed.

 

In 2011, figures from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, Region 10 show Northern Mindanao produced 51,109 metric tons (MT) of tomatoes worth P653, 682.58, a 22% increase over the previous year. It produced 1,159,698 MT of pineapples worth P 9,150,015 (a 46.51% increase over 2010) and 1,725,775 MT of bananas worth P 27,888,527.23 (+.96%).

 

BAS-10 figures also show exports of fresh and canned pineapples from the region in 2011 totaled $ 33.67-million, a 38.5 percent increase from the $ 24.3-million in 2010.

 

The forestry and wood processing sector also provides the cheapest source of fuel for marginal households while sawdust and firewood are major sources of biomass fuel for the Nestle Phils. and Bukidnon Sugar Milling power plants.

 

Appeal to the Senate and DENR

Last year, federation officials led by Plaza and Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental Municipal Mayor Paulino Y. Emano personally appealed to Sen. Francis Pangilinan and DENR Sec. Ramon Paje for DENR to continue allowing sawmills sourcing from tree plantations to operate pending final issuance of a definite set of guidelines on WPP issuance/renewal.

 

Women workers often perform skilled operations in wood processing plants in Region X despite their lack of education handicap.

“Because of this effort, we are currently the only region in the country which was given a one year reprieve to continue operating until such time we come up with sustainable solutions to the issue,” Mr. Plaza said. “DENR agreed to defer the implementation of the WPP renewal for mini sawmills for a year since the second tomato harvest season was already approaching and pineapple and banana exports continued to be shipped out.”

 

The federation is requesting the national government to finally clarify, that Section 2 Sub-section 2.5 of EO 23 is only applicable to those who source raw materials from the forests, and to restore the supply contract back to one (1) year for processors sourcing from tree plantations since WPP issuance is done annually.

 

“The supply of tree plantation logs is not always reliable as harvests also depend on the weather,” Mr. Plaza noted. “Most tree planters are small farmers with small land holdings and don’t have the capacity to meet a five- year log supply contract. Not the least, this might also lead to pole vaulting by contract growers once prices spike.”

 

Not the least, the federation is requesting the Anti Illegal Logging Task Force to finally develop and roll-out the supposed incentives for industrial tree plantations per Resolution No. 1 signed in February 21, 2011 which is tasked to come out with the rules and regulations for EO 23.

 

Tree plantation farmers and wood processor members of the federation include the Cagayan de Oro Lumber Dealers Association; Tagoloan Mini Sawmill Operators Association; Association of Bandsaw Operators and Lumber Dealers of Eastern Misamis Oriental (ABOLDEMOR); First Mindanao United Wood Processors Cooperative (FIMUWOPCO); and other independent companies.

 

“When this Federation was organized in 2002, it had a rough time as only a few saw the need to organize,” said Gomer A. Sabio, federation trustee. “When we re-organized in 2009, it spurred the importance of being together and proved critical. Imagine what we would have done if EO#23 arrived and we were not organized? Strength in numbers has always been a proven strategy and we hope that we continue to support the federation by being actively involved and welcoming more members.”

 

 

– I N D N J C –

 

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