largest environmental problems of the modern age. It causes huge carbon emissions, a loss of biodiversity, and destroys sensitive ecosystems to a point beyond repair. Third world, poorer countries such as the Philippines have huge issues with illegal logging, as they lack the infrastructure, law enforcement, and motivation to prevent it.
- Incredibly, since 2015, the forest area in the Philippines has been rising, mainly thanks to government initiatives and increased law enforcement
- Over 25% of the country is covered by forest, and over 90% of this forest is owned by the government. However, at the beginning of the 20th century, this forest cover was at around 70%
- Unfortunately, only a fifth of these forests are protected under environmental law
- An estimated 9.8 million hectares of forest was destroyed due to illegal logging and deforestation between 1934 and 1988
What is the difference between illegal logging and deforestation?
Often, the words ‘illegal logging’ and ‘deforestation’ are used interchangeably. However, they refer to quite different things. When talking about deforestation, we are talking about the destruction of forest for any reason, be it legal or illegal. Usually it refers to the clean felling of forests to create new agricultural or plantation land. Illegal logging, on the other hand, usually refers to the selective felling of rare and valuable trees for their wood. In a way, illegal loggers can be thought of as ‘tree poachers’. Regardless of the difference between illegal logging and deforestation, they are both extremely damaging to the environment, and need to be reduced as much as possible³.
What contributes to illegal logging in the Philippines?
The fact that illegal logging continues in the modern age can be attributed to a number of factors. Firstly, it is a lack of law enforcement which allows it to continue at the rate that it does. Although the government of the Philippines has stepped up its fight against illegal logging in the past few years, they haven’t been able to stop it. Since the forest area is so huge, and most of it is relatively inaccessible, authorities simply can’t police it all⁴.
Corruption of the authorities is also a huge problem. Since poverty is so widespread throughout the Philippines, some law enforcement officers take bribes from people engaging in illegal activities – including illegal logging. This means that not only do the police turn the other way even though they know that the forests are being destroyed, but in a way they ‘protect’ the loggers by pretending that the area they are working in is clear⁵.
People living in the Western world also contribute indirectly to illegal logging by buying paper or other wood products which are not certified as from a sustainable source. Since a huge fraction of the wood products available on the shelves today are actually sourced from illegally logged timber, whenever you buy something that is not certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council, you are likely to be supporting illegal logging⁶.
Although illegal logging is a big problem in the Philippines, recent government and policy action has begun to decrease its impact on the environment. Hopefully, with further work and government intervention, illegal logging in the Philippines will be all but eradicated within the near future.