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Conclusions and summary

Philippine forestry has evolved from an era of seemingly limitless timber supplies to the present period of highly depleted natural forests and subsequent focus on rehabilitation and reforestation. Increasing emphasis is being given to plantation forestry, particularly in the southern Philippines where growing conditions and available land make this prospect more feasible.

Traditional forest harvesting practices in the Philippines were simple and environmentally sound, but relatively inefficient. Following the Second World War, the Philippine forests became the target of massive over-exploitation, largely based on introduced mechanized technologies. These technologies were often inappropriate for Philippine conditions and eventually proved to be highly destructive and damaging to the country's forests.

Although considerable efforts were made to develop and promote appropriate wood harvesting and transport technologies in the Philippines (starting as early as the mid-1970s), it was not until the 1990s that such technologies gained widespread acceptance. This required careful efforts to ensure that technologies that were developed were in fact appropriate, that relevant training and education programs to promote awareness and adoption were offered, that credit was readily available to tree farmers, and that a favorable policy and market environment was maintained.

For years, many people believed it was not possible to supply the large volumes of wood required by modern forest industries using labor-intensive manual- and animal-based systems. Others discriminated against such technologies, assuming them to be "backward" and inappropriate for modern forestry operations. The recent experience in the southern Philippines, however, has caused a reassessment of such thinking. The PICOP experience in harvesting and transporting large volumes (as much as 250,000 cubic meters per year) of plantation-grown wood clearly demonstrates the potential advantages of labor-intensive methods and systems under certain socio-economic conditions. In addition to being technically feasible, these methods are often less costly and less damaging to the environment than more mechanized harvesting and transport technologies. Moreover, they provide employment for large numbers of people and are less dependent on fossil fuels.

The greatest benefit of developing appropriate technologies for tree harvesting in the Philippines has been the resulting resurgence of tree growing by local people and the subsequent improvements in their livelihoods. After the 1981 typhoon disaster, many people felt that they had been cheated by the "market economy" or by the government. Many joined the underground military movement called the "New Peoples Army" (NPA), and large areas of previous tree farms became strongholds for dissidents. In 1990, when interest in tree farming renewed, the NPA started losing its local supporters. By 1994, large tracts of tree farming communities were supplied with electricity and a new economic era was underway, thanks in part to the prosperity derived from private tree farming.

Progress in the southern Philippines continues. In 1995, many political activities favoring tree growing communities took place. Several of the original tree farm instructors and women tree farmers rose to the level of Barangay Captain or Municipal Chairperson - highly influential positions in Philippine society - in local elections. Credit became increasingly available to local tree farmers through new community cooperative arrangements. Legislation and government policies continue to be formulated with a view toward encouraging private sector tree farming, plantation development, community forestry, and low-impact forest harvesting.

Forestry development in the southern Philippines has drawn considerable attention over the years. Mindanao was the source of huge volumes of logs and timber products for many years following the Second World War. Many innovative technologies, such as the process of making paper from mixed tropical hardwoods, emerged from the southern Philippines. In the 1970s and 1980s, Mindanao received unwanted critical attention for having seriously overexploited its natural forests. In recent years, the southern Philippines has become recognized as an area of significant potential for large-scale plantation development. With the recent successes in implementing large-scale, labor-intensive forest harvesting and transport of wood, it may well be that the southern Philippines will continue to attract the attention of the world forestry community while providing valuable lessons for forestry development in other areas.

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