Day in and day out, we keep hearing about the call to save our forests. We are also aware of how rich the Philippines’ biodiversity is, as well as how our various endemic species deserve to be protected.
In spite of this, our forests remain at risk. Even with increased efforts to crack down on illegal logging, timber smuggling, illegal mining, and other harmful activities, one can’t help but feel that we may be doing too little, too late. We suffer the consequences of our actions – or perhaps, inaction – each time we experience flooding due to heavy rains, soil erosion, drought, and the deterioration of our natural resources.
To put things into perspective, here are five facts about the current state of Philippine forests
1. Approximately one-fourth of the Philippines is forested.
According to recent statistics from the Forest Management Bureau (FMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), 7,014,154 hectares (23.3%) of the Philippines’ 30,000,000-hectare territory is forested, with 2,028,015 hectares closed, 4,682,751 hectares open, and 303,387 comprised of mangroves.
2. The Philippines has 142 critical watersheds.
The River Basin Control Office (RBCO) counts 142 critical watersheds in the Philippines, as well as 18 major rivers, three principal river basins, and 79 natural lakes.
According to Presidential Decree 705, a watershed is “a land area drained by a stream or fixed body of water and its tributaries having a common outlet for surface run-off.” Moreover, the same law defines watershed reservation as “a forest land reservation established to protect or improve the conditions of the water yield thereof or reduce sedimentation.”
Meanwhile, as defined by the IRR of RA 7942, a critical watershed is “a drainage area of a river system, lake or water reservoir supporting existing and proposed hydroelectric power, domestic water supply, geothermal power and irrigation works that need immediate rehabilitation and protection to minimize soil erosion, improve water yield and prevent possible flooding.”
3. So many species call our forests home.
We’ve been told that countless species of plants and animals will lose their homes if we lose our forests, but how many of them are we talking about, exactly?
There are approximately 8931 species of vascular plants and 1,196 species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles, based on statistics from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Of the plant species, 39.2% are endemic. Meanwhile, 45.8% of those animal species are endemic, and around 14.7% of them are classified as “threatened.”
4. Around 80% of forests in the Philippines have been wiped out.
The Philippines experienced a staggering drop in forest cover over the last century — from 70% down to a measly 20%, to be precise. Looking at land use pattern maps and road maps, we can also estimate that we’ve lost about 9.8 million hectares of forest from 1934 to 1988 alone.
According to the FMB, by 2022, we will need to have rehabilitated 1.2 million hectares of our degraded forest lands.
5. We’ve been working hard at rehabilitating our forests.
From 1990 to 2010, the Philippines has regained around 1,095,000 (16.7%) of its forest cover. This is largely due to tireless initiatives from both the government and independent advocacy groups.
Furthermore, the FMB’s National Greening Program, which was launched in 2011, has succeeded in rehabilitating approximately 1.6 million hectares of forest as of December 2017. The program has been renamed the Enhanced National Greening Program, and has been extended to 2028.
Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco
Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.