MANILA, Philippines - The government’s effort of a log ban in the country has redounded to a reduction of illegal logging “hotspots” to 31 from 197, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said.
In a statement, Paje said different policies have resulted in an increase in forest cover. “We are making progress in expanding the country’s forest cover and protecting the remaining forests from degradation with our implementation of the National Greening Program and logging ban.”
President Benigno Aquino III issued last February 2011 Executive Order 23 halting all authorized logging operations in natural forests nationwide, virtually stopping timber extraction of about 300 million board feet a year.
Paje added the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ anti-illegal logging drive also resulted in the confiscation of more than 19 million board feet of forest products, filing of 546 cases in courts and conviction of 72 persons.
The “hot logs” were converted into chairs and donated to the Department of Education. More than 100,000 pieces of chairs and desks so far have been turned over.
Another executive fiat, EO 26, was also issued establishing the National Greening Program. It seeks to plant some 1.5 billion trees covering about 1.5 million hectares in six years, from 2011 to 2016.
Paje said DENR has already planted 142.6 million seedlings on more than 232,000 hectares all over the country. The program also generated over 364,000 jobs, he said.
He noted the government’s forest conservation programs are also starting to gain international recognition.
EO 23 and EO 26 received a perfect score of 100 percent in the 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) of the World, improving the Philippine ranking by eight notches to No. 42 in 2012 from No. 50 in 2010 among the 132 countries evaluated by four respected international institutions.
EPI is an evaluation of the sustainability of the environmental programs and policies of the countries concerned. The evaluation was made by the Yale University, Columbia University, the World Economic Forum and the Joint Research Center of the European Commission.
The Philippines outranked countries like South Korea (43rd), Australia (48th), United States (49th), and Singapore (52nd).