Germans see rising PH timber demand

BERLIN, Germany-- The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Germany's largest funding institution, has warned that the Philippines' recent economic growth would have an "impact" on the Philippine forestry sector, hinting that timbers from illegal sources may thrive in the local market.

Dr. Bernd-Markus Liss, principal advisor for the German Federal Ministry for the Environment on Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) projects in the Philippines, said the country's 7.8 economic growth in the first quarter of the year would mean more infrastructures and more consumption of products, including timber and other related forest products.

"You have a big market for timber in the Philippines," he said, noting that the country's 7.8 percent economic growth will lead to a "construction boom, a higher demand for infrastructure, also consumption."

"People have more money in their pockets so they will buy products, they will buy furniture. If they have new apartments they just have to put the flooring in there. The market is there, but the source is not there," he said in an interview with the Manila Bulletin who is participating in this year's Asia Pacific fellowship program of the Internationale Journalisten Programme (IJP).

The Philippines has been a net exporter of timber for a long time, he said, citing that in Cebu, there is big timber industry, while the furniture industry in Mindanao region is "just building up."
"And legally, you cannot harvest timber in the Philippines unless it comes proven from plantation and even then it becomes difficult because you need all kinds of licenses as long as it is on forest land and 50 percent of the country is forest land. This is where the DENR's jurisdiction comes, so there is a high need because the market demands these products and if not legally sourced, they come from somewhere," Liss said.

Stressing that illegal logging remains a problem in the Philippines, he said in July last year, they uncovered the "scandal" involving 50 containers of illegally hot logs in Mindanao.

"This is just a tip of the iceberg. Our DENR colleagues in the region are struggling hard to cut down on illegal logging but as long as the market demands the timber and the price is good, and you know then things will always happen," he said.

In 2003, the European Union initiated a program that has led to an EU Council resolution which provides that only forest products from legal sources -- be they raw material or processed products like furniture -- can be imported in the EU, Liss noted.

"There is a lot of illegal logging ongoing worldwide and the Philippines is no exception," he said.
The GIZ advisor called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to overhaul its institution for "better monitoring" and to provide extension services to people who are engaged in the government's greening program.