Documentation:Open Case Studies/FRST522/Illegal Logging in The Philippines

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Illegal Logging in The Philippines

Illegal logging endangers south Philippines


The map of The Philippines

The Philippines, officially the Republic of The Philippines, is located in the western Pacific Ocean, and is composed of approximately 7,641 islands. The Philippines covers an area of 30 million hectares and contains a population of about 103 million[1]. Situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, this island country is vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Its unique geographic location equips this country with rich biodiversity and abundant natural resources.

The total forest area made up 70% of The Philippines’s entire land area in 1900[2], while the total forest cover declined to 22% (over 6.5 million hectares) of land area in The Philippines by 2007. Widespread logging is the primary cause of deforestation in The Philippines. Even though The Philippines government prohibited the harvesting of timbers in late 20th century, illegal logging is rampant and continuing in the Philippines [3].

Although illegal logging is hard to define, this country has its definition. The Presidential Decree 705 (The Revised Forestry Code) asserted in 1975 that the state owns all forest areas. Without the state’s authority or consent, no one can alienate, dispose or transfer forest lands. Besides, there is more than one definition of illegal logging, but The government defines illegal logging within the Philippines. It is illegal logging without a forestry bureau’s logging permit. Moreover, anyone will be strictly punished if they enter forest lands and conduct shifting cultivation without a government permit [4].

Poverty Incidence Among the Philippines Population in 2012

Framing the Problem

Framing the Problem: A Forestry Perspective

As the population expanded greatly in The Philippines in the late 20th century, the demand for agricultural lands went up. Some local individuals converted forests into cultivated lands without government consent. Besides, The Philippines had a slow economic growth after independence. Thus, The government attempted to improve the national economy at the cost of forest lands by exploiting timber and non-timber resources. Although the government proposed a law to ban timber harvesting in the late 20th century, illegal loggers behave recklessly, due to the fact that the local government sometimes turns a blind eye to this situation. Namely, the rural poverty is the primary driver behind illegal logging in this country[5].

Moreover, the political infighting since 1998 enables illegal loggers to access some Community Based Forest Management (CBFM) regions easily. Previous Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR) Secretaries ignored national laws to implement three types of Resource Use Permits (RUPs). The government did not halt the RUPs until 2006. During the period of RUPs' utilization, those senior DENR staffs engaged in corrupt practices and earned money from illegal loggers by handing out timber licenses. Meanwhile, those officials were reluctant to give local forests users exclusive timber rights. Thus, the local users lost their timber due to illegal logging caused by local corruption[6].

In conclusion, there are two conflicts which result in illegal logging in The Philippines. The battle between slow economic growth and increased domestic population, combined with the conflict between weak governance and widespread poverty intensify the illegal harvesting activities.

Framing the Problem: Layering Perspectives

The description above describes illegal logging in The Philippines from the perspective of a forestry student. In this section we welcome contributions from other perspectives. Those interested in contributing to this case study may use the following questions as a guide:

How do scholars and professionals outside of forestry conceptualize the practice of illegal logging in The Philippines?

What are other possible ways of framing this problem?

What special expertise, resources, or theoretical orientations might others bring to help us understand this phenomenon better?

Historical context

The river bank of the Philippines

Before the independence of The Philippines in 1946, this country experienced a long period of colonization. In 1565, Spanish colonialism started a permanent revolution in land use in The Philippines[7]. After 200 years’ of colonization, the Spanish forestry department established a rule regarding dividing forest land by provincial level during the Philadelphia Universal Exposition [8]. After that, The Philippines had its first official forestry service in 1863. In 1873, The Philippines' government allowed agricultural lands to replace the forests when local people can maintain permanent timber production.

In 1898, the United States assumed sovereignty over the archipelago of The Philippines from the Spanish through victory in the Spanish American War. Under the colonization of America, the scale of commercial logging in the archipelago expanded massively. As the population grew, some forest lands were converted into agricultural areas with or without official consent. During the period of the Greater East Asia War, Japan became infamous for utilizing both timer and non-timber products from the archipelago’s forest resources, including timber in national parks and timber reserves [8].

Due to the slow economic development after independence in 1946, the government exploited forest resources to make way for improving domestic economic growth during the 1960s and 1970s. The exploitation of forests did not cease until 1986. The Philippines’s government introduced social forestry programs in forest policies and banned harvesting without government consent. Moreover, this country built a 400,000-hectares protected area to preserve genetic diversity, valued species, and habitats. In spite of the slow restoration rate, approximate 0.7 hectares of forest cover increased under reforestation projects during the late 20th century and the early 21st century [8].


Implications: A Forestry Perspective


The Philippines Eagle
The Philippines Crocodile

Illegal logging can result in deforestation and degradation directly. So, illegal logging could trigger a series of environmental problems, including natural disasters, habitat loss, carbon sequestration reduction, and water quality deterioration.

According to the data, there are approximate 6,000 local plant species and 600 endemic animal species in The Philippines. Over 150 animal species are threatened among these rare animals. Illegal loggers have invaded the nation's “largest great forest” in The Philippines with valued plants, trees species, and animals. These illicit activities reduced the amount of these species, and have especially endangered The Philippine eagle and The Philippine crocodile, on account of the habitat loss[9][10].

Political and Economic

In The Philippines, weak governance is the main contributor to illegal logging. Meanwhile, illegal logging promotes the corruption in the forest regions due to much illegal income for the officials[5].

Illegal logging has two major economic effects in The Philippines. On the one hand, those people who get involved in illegal logging can get substantial income. For instance, a skilled chainsaw operator can make about 400 Peso in a day. From some interviews by Jan et al. in the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park (NSMNP), these employees gain benefits from logging to cover their children’s school fees, plus their alcohol and tobacco. However, such positive impacts of illegal logging can only benefit a few people. On the other hand, the farmers lose profits, due to farm-to-market roads damaged by the logging trucks. Also, fishers complain about the reduction of fish quality and quantity because of soil erosion[11].

Furthermore, the illegal logging increases the timber supply in the domestic market, which decreases the timber price[5]. The Philippines government and legal forest industry become two biggest victims of illegal logging, due to the lessened taxes and timber prices respectively.


Illegal logging degrades the forest ecosystem in The Philippines, which damages the protective function of the forests. The deterioration of forests triggers landslides and flooding after a heavy monsoon rain. These natural disasters lead to massive deaths of citizens and loss of livelihoods.

More than 27 floods and 17 landslides occurred each year in the first decade of the 21st century, as recorded by the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center. Statistics show over 1.6 million people and 24,212 individuals every year are affected by floods and landslides respectively during this period. Moreover, the damage to agricultural land and infrastructure generates a loss of tens of millions of pesos each year[10]. Further, The Philippines President announced that illegal logging is one of the primary drivers of landslides in 2004. These landslides directly caused 1,800 deaths in Quezon Province[12].


Apart from the natural disasters, the illegal logging also creates the conflicts over human rights. The indigenous people, whose ancestors dominated the forests for centuries, suffer from violations such as resources grabbing and militarization[10].

The local Talaandig indigenous people in the province of Bukidnon had suffered from the negative influence of the protected area managed by local institutions. The Section 44 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992 in The Philippines declared the rights of indigenous cultural communities to ancestral lands and domains within protected areas and natural parks. Nevertheless, to better manage the protected area of Mt. Kitanglad and solve the deforestation problem caused by illegal logging before, the managers suppressed the ancestral domain rights of local indigenous people. However, the management of protected area is a failure, due to ignoring the rights of indigenous people and against the local culture.

Implications: Layering Perspectives

The description above describes the implications from illegal logging in The Philippines from the perspective of a forestry student. In this section, we welcome contributions from other perspectives. Those interested in contributing to this case study may use the following questions as a guide:

How could someone from a different discipline or profession add to the implications above?

What other implications become apparent when illegal logging is viewed through the lens of other disciplines and professions?

What special expertise, resources, or theoretical orientations might others bring to help us better understand the implications associated with illegal logging in The Philippines?

Combating Illegal Logging

The massive landslide that resulted from illegal logging in The Philippines in 2004 caused the deaths of 1,800 people in Quezon Province. The government appointed specialized police and army forces to combat illegal loggers and their financiers[5]. In 2008, The Philippines’ s government formed an Anti-illegal Logging Taskforce to strictly dismantle illegal logging operations in the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park (NSMNP). After an 18-month effort, the operations resulted in the confiscation of over 4,000 m3 of timber from illegal logging events during 2008 and 2009[11], which is an example of striking illegal logging to some extent.

Most of the illegal timber is delivered to other countries, including Japan, the United States, China, and Europe[4]. From the national level, The Philippines government banned log exports following widespread deforestation in the 1970s. To some extent, this policy reduces timber harvesting including illegal logging through its shrinking timber market. The ban is necessary to counter illegal timber harvesting under a circumstance that the government cannot control corruption and illegal logging[13].

From the global aspect, to alleviate global warming, the UN and other multilateral institutions proposed an international policy called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+). One interpretation of REDD+ is that it encourages the conversion of natural forests into plantations. Thus, some commercial loggers in The Philippines could acquire extra profits from the forest. This framework of REDD+ could exacerbate illegal logging in The Philippines to some extent through increasing loggers’ profits[14].


Recommendations: A Forestry Perspective

Rural poverty and corruption are the primary drivers of illegal logging in The Philippines.

1. The provincial government should focus on alleviating rural poverty; there are two approaches. The provincial government could assist local people to develop eco-tourism. Moreover, The Philippines government can provide rural residents with secure forestry tenure to establish Community Based Forest Management (CBFM). Meanwhile, work should continue in collaboration with local communities to build sustainable forest management.

2. Anti-corruption is necessary for combating illegal logging. The establishment of the anti-corruption supervisory committee should involve members who are from varying classes, including rural individuals, government officials as well as NGO members. This supervisory committee should have the authority to report to the judiciary directly to combat corruption.

3. The Philippines is not a partner with the European Union (EU) Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and (FLEGT-VPA). I strongly recommend The Philippines government to develop a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with EU to fight illegal logging[15].

4. Lastly, The Philippines government can use Integrated Forest Land-Use Planning (IFLUP) to manage the lands so as to safeguard natural resources. The IFLUP is an efficient approach to regulating land use and preventing conflicts[16].

Recommendations: Layering Perspective

What recommendations might someone from another discipline or profession make to combat the issue of illegal logging in The Philippines? Examples might include

  • Law
  • Geography
  • Environmental Science
  • Social Justice
  • Economics
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Philosophy


  1. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (2017). World population prospects: the 2017 revision. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division.
  2. Peralta, Eleno O. (2005). "21. Forests for poverty alleviation: the response of academic institutions in The Philippines". In Sim, Appanah, and Hooda (Eds.). Proceedings of the workshop on forests for poverty reduction: changing role for research, development and training institutions (RAP Publication). Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  3. Rhett, Butler. (2014). Philippines environment. MONGABAY: rainforest country profiles.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Maohong, B. (2012). Deforestation in the Philippines, 1946-1995. Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints, 60(1), 117–130. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Maohong" defined multiple times with different content
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Reboredo, F. (2013). Socio-economic, environmental, and governance impacts of illegal logging. Environment Systems and Decisions, 33(2), 295–304.
  6. Pulhin, J. M., & Dressler, W. H. (2009). People, power and timber: The politics of community-based forest management. Journal of Environmental Management, 91(1), 206–214.
  7. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. (1982). Oliver Wolters, history, culture, and region in Southeast Asian perspectives. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Bankoff, G. (2013). “Deep forestry”: shapers of the Philippine forests. Environmental History, 18(3), 523–556.
  9. Severino,.HG.(2009).Overwhelming force to save the nation’s last great forest. Retrieved October 21, 2017, from
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Pamintuan, M. (2011). Protect Philippine forests. Retrieved October 21, 2017, from
  11. 11.0 11.1 Van der Ploeg, J., Masipiqueña, A., van Weerd, M., & Persoon, G. (2011). Illegal logging in the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, The Philippines. Conservation and Society, 9(3), 202.
  12. Magallona MM (2004) The Philippines, 2004 top news on environment in Asia. Institute for global environmental strategies.
  13. Tumaneng-Diete, T., Ferguson, I. S., & MacLaren, D. (2005). Log export restrictions and trade policies in The Philippines: Bane or blessing to sustainable forest management? Forest Policy and Economics, 7(2), 187–198.
  14. Lasco, R. D., Veridiano, R. K. A., Habito, M., & Pulhin, F. B. (2013). Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus (REDD+) in The Philippines: Will it make a difference in financing forest development? Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 18(8), 1109–1124.
  15. Bosello, F., Parrado, R., & Rosa, R. (2013). The economic and environmental effects of an EU ban on illegal logging imports. Insights from a CGE assessment. Environment and Development Economics, 18(2), 184–206.
  16. Bonsu, N. O., Dhubháin, Á. N., & O’Connor, D. (2017). Evaluating the use of an integrated forest land-use planning approach in addressing forest ecosystem services conflicting demands: Experience within an Irish forest landscape. Futures, 86, 1–17.

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
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