• Philippines

Legal framework for forest management and timber trade of Philippines

Forest governance

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is the primary government agency responsible for the conservation, management, development, and proper use of the country’s forests (EO No. 192, Series of 1987). The Forest Management Bureau (FMB), one of the staff bureaus of the DENR, is the government agency responsible for providing technical guidance to the central and field offices for the effective protection, development, and conservation of forestlands and watersheds.

The primary law governing Philippines’ forestlands and forest resources is Presidential Decree No. 705, Series of 1975, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, as amended (PD 1559 of 1978, PD 1775 of 1981, EO 277 of 1987, and RA 7161 of 1991). PD 705 mandates for the proper classification, management and utilization of the lands of the public domain to maximize their productivity to meet the demands of the country’s increasing population.

On the other hand, in 1995, EO No. 263 was issued adopting Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) as the national strategy to ensure the sustainable development of the country’s forestland resources and providing mechanisms for its implementation.

Moreover, in 2004, EO No. 318 was issued promoting sustainable forest management in the Philippines.

In addition, to abate the continued deforestation and degradation of forests, in 2011, EO No. 23 was issued declaring a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forest and creating the (currently inactive) Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force. On the same year, EO No. 26 was issued declaring an interdepartmental convergence initiative for a National Greening Program (NGP). E.O No. 26 provides that the NGP shall plant some 1.5 billion trees covering about 1.5 M ha for a period of six (6) years from 2011 to 2016 in the specific lands of the public domain. The NGP was extended and expanded until 2028 pursuant to EO No. 193, Series of 2015.

Legal rights to harvest

Under Section 77 of the Revised Forestry Code 3815, any person (whether natural or juridical) may harvest timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable and disposable public lands provided the said person has authority in the form of license agreement, lease, license, or permit.

Likewise, with the issuance of EO No. 23 in 2011 declaring a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forest and creating the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force, only planted trees will be allowed to be harvested with different requirements and proper documentations depending upon on the tenure instruments:

  • Community Based Forest Management Agreement (CBFMA) under DAO No. 2004-29, DAO No. 2000-29, and DAO 2021-17. See Section 4D for requirements.
  • Industrial Forest Management Agreement, IFMA under DAO 1999-53 and DAO 2020-04. See Section 4D for requirements.
  • Socialized Industrial Forest Management Agreement, SIFMA under DAO 1996-24 and DAO 2004-30. See Section 4D for requirements.
  • Private Titled, Alienable and Disposable Land under DAO 1999-20. See Section 4D for requirements.
  • DAO 2020-18. In this policy, a third party Tree Plantation Certifier, a registered group or corporation engaged in forestry services and registered or accredited by the DENR to certify that harvested logs and tree derivatives for transport are planted from tree plantations.
  • In case of naturally grown trees that should be harvested, such as in CADT and CALT (Certificate of Ancestral Domain Territory), CALT (Certificate of Land Title under the Indigenous Peoples Right’s Act) areas, DAO 11-2021 shall apply for tree cutting, harvesting, and transport permits.
  • In case of social obligations, the permit/tenurial holders are required to comply with the terms and conditions of the instruments, particularly those pertain to social aspects, such as public health.

Taxes and fees

DAO 2000-63 and pursuant to the RA No, 7161 and DAO 2021-11 described the forest charges on a per cubic meter volume of harvest from naturally grown forest resources. On the other hand, under DAO 200-63, planted trees and other forest products harvested from industrial tree plantation area and private lands covered by existing titles and by approved land application are exempted from the payment of forest charges.

Likewise, DAO No. 2004-16 prescribes the revised schedule of forestry administrative fees. These fees include application and registration for non-timber forest products, annual permit fee for forest products utilization, performance bonds for tenurial instruments, revolving funds/service deposit, rental/government share/user fee, and surcharges.

Timber harvesting activities

For IFMA, the primary plan is the Comprehensive Development and Management Plan (CDMP). CDMP is a long-term plan prepared and submitted by an IFMA holder to, and for the approval by, the DENR. DAO No. 1995-53 also provides that after an IFMA has been awarded, and to identify the environmental impacts through submission of an Initial Environmental Examination (IEE).

For CBFMA, the approved Community Resource Management Framework (CRMF) and the Five-Year Work Plan (FYWP) by the DENR as the basis of harvesting and utilization of the forest resources. CRMF also serve as the Initial Environmental Examinee (IEE) which shall be the basis of issuance of Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

For SIFMA, an Indicative Development Plan is required for the harvesting and utilization of forest resources and it serves as the IEE and shall be the basis for the issuance of ECC.

Likewise, as per DAO 2020-18, tree plantation in tenured areas require a 5 % inventory of plantation stock report is required to be conducted by a licensed forester, while a third party tree plantation certifier is required to issue a certificate that the harvested logs and tree derivatives for transport are planted from tree plantations.

Requirements that apply to the employer, for the benefit of Workers are covered by existing labor standards and relations laws, particularly Presidential Decree No. 442, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines, as amended and renumbered.

Third parties’ rights

Indigenous peoples’ rights
Pursuant to RA 8371 of 1997 otherwise known as Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, all tenure instruments issued by government require to secure a Certificate of Precondition from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples which the said area does not overlap with any ancestral domain of any ICC/IPs or if the area is within the ancestral domain, that the required Free and Prior Informed Consent was properly obtained in the accordance to this law.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Business organizations established and operating under the Philippine laws, be it domestic or foreign, are encouraged to observe corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the operation of their business in the country.

Trade and transport

The trade and export of forest products, such as timber and non-timber forest products require various certificates for transport, registration or export and import authority, and transshipment as can be found in DAO 2021-06, DAO 1991-54, and DAO 99-46. See further the key documents section.

The Philippines is currently establishing its national traceability system known as the National Forest Stock Monitoring System. The NFSMS is “composed of the study, development and field testing of a system to aid the government to plan, monitor, and control the trade of Philippine timber resources in accordance with the Philippine’s existing laws and regulations with internationally accepted standards” (FMB, 2019).