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An Issue of Deforestation in the Philippines

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An Issue Of Deforestation in The Philippines

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Deforestation is defined by cutting of tress in a forested area. The deterioration of forest resources and poor economic performance in the Philippines call for a serious rethinking of economic policies addressing both environmental and economic objectives. The recent economic literature suggests the possibility of attaining both macroeconomic growth and sustainability in natural resource use.

The Philippines has exploited its forest resources at least for the last 100 years. Evidence of economic growth and development could have justified the negative effects on the environment of extensive logging activities at least before the 1980s when environmental issues are non-existent. The Philippines, located between the equator and the Tropic of Cancer in Southeast Asia, is one of the largest archipelagoes in the world. With approximately 7100 islands, the land area of this country is 299 400 km 2 (FAO,1981; Baconguis et al. , 1990 ). It comprises three major island groups: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The main types of forest vegetation of the Philippine islands are dipterocarp, mangrove, pine and mossy (or cloud forests). Most of the commercially valuable species are members of the Dipterocarpaceae(Ooi, 1987; Garrity et al. , 1992). Disappearance and degradation of forests are among the most significantissues of natural resources management in the Philippines. The country was 90% forested when the Spaniards conquered the islands in the middle of the sixteenth century (Westoby, 1989). By 1900, forest cover was reduced to 70% (Garrity et al. , 1992 ). The establishment of plantations of export crops led to a tremendous loss of forests in the nineteenth century. During World War II, forest logging decreased because of the decline of the timber industry. On the other hand, forest clearing increased because a large number of Filipinos took refuge in the forests and practiced farming therein. The overall effect of these factors on forest cover is unknown (Garrity et al. , 1992 ).

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The Philippine population stood at 1. 5 million in 1799 and at 7. 6 million in 1903. It grew to 19. 2 million by 1948 and by 1960 it stood at 27 million. The Philippines’ average annual population growth rate was around 2 per cent from 1918 to 1948. From 1960 to 1980, the average annual growth rate was around 2. 8 per cent. The period where the growth rate of the population started to reach almost 3 per cent was in 1960. This is the same period when log exports started to rise to 57. 5 per cent, indicating that factors other than an increase in (domestic) population were affecting forest cover. The Philippine government maintains that classified forestland, which is considered in the public domain, should remain at 40 per cent of the total land area in the country despite the fact that forested land only amounts to around 13 per cent of total land or 27 per cent of classified forestland2. Land use issues are crucial in the face of increasing population and demand for commercial uses of land, especially in land constraint economies. Hence, the Philippine government should determine the right balance between forest areas subjected to logging, and national parks as well as lands for agricultural and other non-forestland activities.

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