Sanchez: Alternative forest livelihoods

Nature Speaks

LAST week, I’m a bit disappointed at the recent meeting between the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (ENRO) and law enforcement agencies who met with members of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force. Participants included the Community ENROs of Bago, Cadiz, and Kabankalan, and the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, Philippine Coastguard, Bureau of Fire Protection, and Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The meeting’s agenda covered orientation on ENR laws, rules, and regulations with the aim of reviving the Provincial Environment Desk Officers, the Wildlife Resources Conservation Act and the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines the rules for administrative adjudication of illegal forest products and the machinery, equipment, tools and conveyances.

Somehow I missed the part where products, especially non-timber forest products, can be used as instruments for forest conservation. And how local government agencies such as the Provincial Economic Development and Investment Center can play a role in alleviating poverty while conserving forest timber resources.

The PEDIC is established under the Local Investment and Incentives Code of 2014 whose main function is to pursue green economy development by creating an environment encouraging local and foreign businesses to invest capital in the Province. The PEDIC wants to bring about sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development for the Negrense, including upland forest-dependent farmers.

Last year, Negros Occidental made waves during the Panaad Festival where an NTFP made its debut: bamboo.

Said Rafael Coscolluela, the provincial consultant on investment and promotions, trade and export development, “The market potential for products made from bamboo as raw material for processing is billions of dollars.”

As a biodiversity-based resource, bamboo can serve as an alternative to wood resources, now strictly protected under a nationwide total ban on the utilization of Philippine hardwoods.

Bamboo is considered a sustainable substitute for timber, due to its fast growth (three to four years) until harvesting and consequently, annual harvests. The resource is extremely versatile, with over 1,500 documented uses, and can be used as alternatives to timber. Products include furniture and handicrafts; split-based products; flooring; mats, boards and veneer; housing and scaffolding; pulp and paper; charcoal (fuel, absorption); fiber and textiles; shoots (food), and medicine.

Today’s interest in NTFPs, FAO’s Forestry Department argues that to conserve the world’s tropical forests, “we have to find new products, develop markets and improve marketing systems for NTFPs, so that the forests will become far too valuable to destroy.” FAO called NTFPs as “potential pillars of sustainable forestry.”

Do I hear an “Amen?”


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