Putting the spotlight on industrial tree plantations. 

By Eirene Grace C. Zaragoza

The future of the wood-based industries depends largely on the success of industrial tree plantations (ITPs). In the Philippines, the wood industry is quite vibrant in Mindanao, especially the CARAGA Region, which is dubbed the “Timber Corridor” of the country.

CARAGA is considered the leading producer of timber in the country. It covers 684,503 hectares (ha) of forest lands in Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and Surigao del Norte. During the last 15 years, the extraction of wood from the natural forests has been gradually regulated until it was eventually banned in 2010 due to the indiscriminate illegal logging activities in the uplands. Thus, the local sources of the country’s woodbased industries are now totally dependent on plantation timber. However, the government still allows the importation of logs and lumber from other countries to address domestic wood requirements.

The wood industry requires approximately 2 million (M) cubic meters (m3) based on three-year average consumption (PWPA, 2010), but to date, the country produces only 1.34M m3, of which 740,000 m3 come from commercial plantations in various regions.

Other problems faced by the Philippines’ wood industry include insufficient sources of certified seeds and quality planting materials (falcate and yemane); low field survival rate because of the absence of management intervention after field planting; lack of interventions on the use of wood wastes for other high-value products; and incomplete information on supply and demand for ITPs.

(From left to right) Falcate; mangium; bagras; and yemane.

To address these gaps, the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) of the Department of Science and Technology has come up with strategies that will focus on producing high-quality seeds and planting materials as well as the improvement of the ITP’s variable yield through the Industry Strategic S&T Plans (ISP) on ITP.

The PCAARRD established a research program on ITP covering four major fast-growing tree species: falcate (Paraserianthes falcataria), mangium (Acacia mangium Willd.), bagras (Eucalyptus deglupta Blume), and yemane (Gmelina arborea Roxb.). This program is in collaboration with the University of the Philippines Los Baños-College of Forestry and Natural Resources (UPLB-CFNR), the DOST Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI), and the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau-Ecosystems Research
and Development Service (ERDB-ERDS), along with the ERDS of CARAGA Region.

The ITP program, titled “Action Program on the Establishment of Commercial Plantations and Efficient Utilization of the Wood Products in Caraga Region,” has three project components focusing on production of high-quality planting materials, establishment of small-scale processing and enterprise development, and developing policy studies on forest plantations. The actions program has five major objectives: (1) productivity improvement of tree plantations by providing appropriate technologies; (2) establishment of plantation-based family/community enterprises; (3) improvement of policy and institutional infrastructures for plantation development; (4) improvement of competitiveness of Philippine wood products; and (5) improvement of the economic status of [smallholding] farmers.

Because of the action program, farmers with falcate plantations in Agusan del Norte experienced multiple benefits in terms of higher germination rate and survival of outplanted seedlings, faster growth rate, more cylindrical stems, and higher resistance to pests and diseases. Notably, there are also foresters who ventured into buying farmlands to develop their falcate plantations using seeds from the Mindanao Tree Seed Center.

Furthermore, two clonal nurseries in Butuan and Bislig City were established and maintained as sources of quality planting materials. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 13 office serves as one of the avenues for the dissemination of information to farmers (i.e., markets and current prices of logs, lumber, and other wood products). Interested farmers/communities were assisted and technical support was provided in the establishment of nurseries and tree plantations, the putting up of 34 nurseries as sources of high quality planting materials, and the establishment of a total of 530 ha of plantations in four provinces of the CARAGA Region.

Currently, the program is working on the selection and varietal improvement that will advance the required knowledge and techniques for optimizing the use of available genetic resources. It also seeks to establish the foundation of genetic materials for long-term breeding programs that will support the envisioned expansion of tree plantations resources. This ensures a reliable supply of seeds that will provide optimum yields under specific site conditions necessary for the expansion of the total area of higher yielding tree plantation.

Successful achievement of the timber production target in tree plantations and the conservation of native forests are foreseen to contribute highly to improving the quality and standard of living across the nation. With these, Philippine forestry will move several steps towards the goal of sustainable forest management.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s January 2018 issue.