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Dolores R. Catindig1


The trade of forest products is an important component of the Philippine economy. From the 1960s to the mid 1980s, the Philippines was a net exporter of forest products, particularly logs and sawnwood that were consistently among the top 10 principal exports of the country. The 1990s saw the country’s transformation from a net exporter to a net importer of forest products. The change was mainly attributable to the governments forest resource conservation policy to respond to the global call for sustainable forest management. Notwithstanding the deceleration in the export of primary forest products, the production of secondary and tertiary wood products made progress owing to the encouragement given by the government to export products with high value added. The import of logs and lumber was liberalized to support the requirements of the local wood-processing industry.

Information on forest product trade is very useful to quite a number of users, notably decision-makers in the government and the business sector. It is equally important for international groups such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and others in mapping the direction towards maintaining a healthy environment.

In connection with the desk study on forest production and trade supported by the EC-FAO Partnership Programme, a study on the collection and analysis of trade data was undertaken in the early half of 2002. The study is an in-depth discussion on trade of forest products, spanning several years. This paper presents the experiences of the author while undertaking the study.

Source of trade data

The National Statistics Office (NSO) is the sole agency of the government with the mandate to compile foreign trade statistics. Foreign trade statistics are compiled by the NSO from copies of import and export documents submitted by importers and exporters to the Bureau of Customs as required by law. The sources of export data are the Export Permit, the Export Declaration and the EPZA Export Tally. General exporters use the Export Permit; exporters registered with the Board of Investments (BOI) use the Export Declaration; and the EPZA Export Tally is used by exporters inside the Export Processing Zone (EPZ). Copies of these trade documents are sent to the NSO for compilation and processing. The documents are sorted by month, by port, by single or multiple commodity entries and by value.

The Philippines classifies commodities in trade in accordance with the 1993 Revised Philippine Standard Commodity Classification or the PSCC, which is a classification scheme aligned with the United Nations International Trade Classification (SITC), and the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System of the Philippines otherwise known as the Harmonized System of the Philippines or the HSP.

Trade data are published through the Foreign Trade Statistics of the Philippines, which is published annually in two volumes – Volume 1 for Imports and Volume 2 for Exports. Monthly export and import statistics are released 30 to 45 days after the reference month. Published data consist of the volume and value of imports and exports, by commodity, on a national scale. The Forest Management Bureau (FMB) accesses these data for a complete picture of forestry trade. Trade data form a significant portion of the Philippine Forestry Statistics Yearbook published by the FMB.

Products analysed

The following products were analysed in relation to export and import:


Sawlogs/veneer logs


Other industrial roundwood

Wood charcoal


Veneer sheets


Particle boards



Medium density fibreboards (MDF)

Insulating boards

Paper and paperboards

Period of analysis

As required in the Terms of Reference of the desk study, the analysis of trade statistics covered 1996 to 2000.

Level of analysis

Analysis of trade data was conducted for both national and regional perspectives. The national level covered all the imports and exports nationwide for a certain period. Data were also analysed according to the region where the traded products originated for imports and according to destination for exports.

The Philippines is divided into 16 administrative regions comprising 76 provinces located in the three main islands of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. There are seven regions in Luzon, three in Visayas and six in Mindanao. Almost all of these regions trade forest products with other countries.

Trade variables analysed

The study mainly analysed the volume and value of forest products traded and the direction of trade. The volume was expressed in appropriate units of measurement following the units used by FAO for all products except for wood chips and particles and wood residues.

Products were expressed in the following units:

Cubic meters:



Veneer sheets


Particle boards


  Metric tonnes:

Wood charcoal

Wood pulp

Paper and paperboard products


Wood chips and particles

Wood residues

The corresponding values were all presented in US dollars – free on board (FOB) for exports, and cost, insurance and freight (CIF) for imports.

The direction of trade was analysed similarly indicating the target country for exported forest products and the exporting country for imported products.

Methods of analysis

The five-year data were analysed using statistical matrices that were constructed based on the raw data gathered from the NSO. Trend analysis of each product both at the national and regional level was done, examining the year-to-year performance by product to identify how government policies have impacted on the development of wood-based industries. The total volume and value for five years were obtained to show the magnitude of trade involved for each product during the period; the five-year average was then calculated for easy discussion and comparison between products.

Percentages were computed .to reveal the extent of the share of a particular commodity to the total forest product trade in terms of value for a particular year. In a way this showed which products performed satisfactorily and have to be sustained and those that will need a further boost from the government. 

Collection of trade data: issues encountered and solutions

The collection and analysis of data was not easy. Some issues needed more attention than expected. They were, inter alia:

Unpublished regional data

The NSO publishes trade data at the national level only. Regional data, however, can be obtained on request with some consideration for the extra effort spent in retrieving the data. The data obtained from the NSO were unprocessed, or files containing entries of transactions as they occurred during a certain period. All of the data needed for the analysis, however, could be extracted from the files (such as volume, value, the port where the transaction took place, the product code, etc.).

Further processing was undertaken with the aid of a customized programme developed for the analysis. The programme facilitated rapid sorting by product and provided a comprehensive data set on forest product trade, making the analysis convenient.

Units of measurement

The NSO uses volume and weight as units of measurement. Roundwood, sawnwood, plywood and veneer are expressed in cubic decimeters and the other products included in the study, in net or gross kilograms. Conversions were made to conform with the units of measurement used by FAO, with those expressed in cubic decimeters being converted to cubic meters. The other products (except wood chips and particles and wood residues) were converted from kilograms to metric tonnes. These products were wood charcoal, pulp and paper products. Particle boards and fibreboards, originally expressed in kilograms, were converted to cubic meters.

Conversion factors: Wood chips and particles and wood residues, however, remained in kilograms instead of cubic meters since conversion factors for these products were not available.

Cross-referencing discrepancy

Cross-referencing of product codes between the SITC and the HSP was devised to match products in a particular product grouping. However, one particular code under roundwood in the SITC is missing. Roundwood in the SITC is classified into treated (247.3) and not treated (247.4 and 247.5). The cross-referencing, however, did not include the former. Since 247.3 is an integral feature of our roundwood trade, this category was considered in the analysis.


The collection and analysis of trade data as a component of the desk study was an enriching experience in terms of providing information, not only data, regarding national trends in export and import. The national, as well as the regional analysis, afforded an opportunity to discover the dynamics of foreign trade and how it affects the economy. Information on trade is also an important input for formulating policies to enable a country to keep abreast with globalization trends. Studies of this kind should be sustained so that the data are transformed into meaningful information for policy- and decision-making.

1 Supervising Forest Management Specialist, Forest Management Bureau, Visayas Ave., Diliman, Quezon City, the Philippines.

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