Executive Summary
The need to conserve forest genetic resources has long been seriously recognized. Taking the lead in the efforts to stem the tide of the continuous loss of and/or conserve the world’s forest genetic resources is the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations which has organized the Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources or the Forest Gene Panel as early as 1967. This urgent concern was further translated into action with the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture agreeing on the preparation of a report on “The State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources.” The global report will draw from the country reports that shall be prepared by the member countries. This is the Country Report on the Forest Genetic Resources (FGR) of the Philippines.
This country report was prepared in accordance with the Guidelines for the Preparation of Country Reports for the State of the World’s Forest Resources prepared by the FAO. The FAO designed the Country Reports to cover genetic resources of environmental, economic, social and cultural values. Specifically, the country reports were expected to bring insights on current management activities of forest genetic resources, in-situ and ex-situ genetic conservation as well as improvement and breeding activities, support facilities, and participation and/or involvement in regional and international cooperation and collaboration pertaining to forest genetic resources, and capacity building needs on both knowledge and genetic resources management.
In keeping with the guidelines, this report is an attempt to assess the state of the Philippine’s forest genetic resources and their roles and values. In the assessment, “aspects of forest biodiversity, the production systems and the environment in which these resources are used, the range of products and services which they provide, the consumption patterns and socio-cultural practices associated with them, the ecosystem functions which they sustain and their roles in achieving sustainable forest management, food security and poverty alleviation” were likewise discussed.
The Philippines lies just above the equator between 4°30’ and 21°20’ North latitude and 116°40’ and 126°34’ East longitude and is made up of over 7,107 islands. Of the total land area, 94% comes from the 11 largest islands. The land area is 300,000 square kilometres (sq km) or 30,000,000 hectares (ha). Water within the land occupies an area of 1,830 sq km. The coastline measures 36,289 km. The prevailing climate is tropical rain monsoon from November to April and Southwest monsoon from May to October. There are only two seasons, wet and dry as per the monsoon rains. The terrain is mostly mountainous with narrow coastal lowlands. Natural hazards include 20-22 cyclonic typhoons per year, landslides, flooding, active volcanoes, destructive earthquakes and tsunamis. Current environmental issues include uncontrolled deforestation especially in watershed areas, soil erosion, air and water pollution in major urban areas, coral reef degradation, and increasing pollution of coastal mangrove swamps that are important as fish breeding grounds.
In situ conservation of forest genetic resources in the Philippines largely takes place in protected areas in the Philippines. In situ conservation in protected areas started in the Philippines as early as 1932, through the institution of the National Parks System. In totality, 60 national parks and 8 game refuges and bird sanctuaries were established under this system. These parks, refuges and sanctuaries became a core component of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) which was established in 1992 through Republic Act (RA) 7586. The objective of NIPAS is to “integrate outstanding remarkable areas and biologically important public lands that are habitats of rare and endangered species of plants and animals, biogeographic zones and related ecosystems whether terrestrial, wetland or marine, all of which shall be designated as protected areas”. The national parks established before 1992 became the initial components of NIPAS. Currently, there are 302 of these in the NIPAS with a total area of more than 5.5 million ha, including natural parks, protected landscapes and seascapes, natural monuments or landmarks, resource reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, natural biotic areas, and marine parks and mangrove swamps. Only about 93 have, thus far, been given Presidential Proclamation or Congressional actions covering some 2.95 million ha or just 9.8% of the total land area of the Philippines. Constraints in the in situ conservation of forest genetic resources in the country include inadequate inventories of their plant biodiversity or detailed information on which rare and threatened species occur in which protected areas, the abundance of rare, endangered, or threatened species in production forests, the threat of alien invasive species in PAs, lack of knowledge and skills of field personnel doing timber cruising on rare, endangered and threatened tree species, non-delineation on the ground of the boundaries of the PAs, encroachment of farming activities into the PAs, and institutional and management limitations.
Ex situ conservation efforts for forest genetic resources in the Philippines generally involve establishment of field genebanks or plantations, botanical gardens, and seed banks. For a time genebanks mostly of commercial fast growing exotic species in the form of tree plantations were maintained by large integrated wood industries (e.g. PICOP Resources, Inc.) in the country. But such living collections were also subjected to harvesting. To date, there may still be a few remaining collections but they are no longer being maintained and that records pertaining to accessions in such areas are mostly missing. There are now three rattan genebanks, a field genebank of agroforestry tree species, two palmetum, two mangrovetum, and three bambusetum. All are adequately maintained. There are botanic gardens in several areas in the country notable of which is the Makiling Botanic Gardens of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) in the Province of Laguna. There are clonal multiplication gardens of dipterocarps and tree plantation species. There are seed production areas identified but their maintenance and documentation are inadequate. There are a few seed orchards established by ERDB. There are significant efforts on clonal propagation, both macro- and micropropagation. Few researches related to ex situ conservation have been undertaken so far. Initiatives on the ex situ conservation of forest genetic resources in the Philippines are largely fragmented and clearly, more needs to be done along this area.
Much needs to be done also when it comes to the sustainable use and management of forest genetic resources in the country. The continuous destruction of the environment poses a great threat to the availability of forest genetic resources. Destruction is mainly caused by land conversion for settlement, agricultural development, shifting cultivation, logging, forest fire, and to some extent mining, energy projects, and pest and diseases. The country’s forest genetic resources are threatened by overexploitation for commercial purposes (e.g. collection of wild orchids for export), land conversion (logging and shifting cultivation) and habitat fragmentation. Furthermore, previous efforts and current activities on the genetic improvement and/or breeding of forest species in the Philippines are few and largely fragmented. The country doesn’t have a national tree improvement program as yet to tie in all the initiatives on forest genetic improvement including forest genetic resources conservation.
There are several types of organizations that are known to be conducting field and laboratory works on forest genetic resources conservation. These are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources through its Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau and its regional field research units (Ecosystems Research and Development Services), the academic institutions (e.g. the UPLB, the Visayas State University in Leyte Province, and other state colleges and universities), conservation-oriented NGOs and a few private wood industries in the past. The government’s NIPAS program is a positive force in the efforts towards in-situ conservation of FGR. The recently launched National Greening Program seeks to contribute to ex-situ conservation. There are few organizations that have undertaken serious FGR conservation initiatives with some being national in scope. The achievements of these organizations and their programs are potential building blocks for reinforcing FGR conservation efforts in the country in the future.
Institutionally, the Philippines has also established the structure to guarantee the continuity of initiatives towards the conservation of forest genetic resources in the country. Various laws have been enacted and local ordinances have been promulgated that are designed to safeguard such resources. These efforts are complemented by a continuing program on information, education, and communication designed to promote the conservation of forest genetic resources.
The Philippines is also a party to a number of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) which aims to conserve and sustainably use biological diversity. These include the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, and the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In like manner, the country is a member of international organizations whose thrusts include the sustainable use of FGR like the IUFRO and the APAFRI and has been collaborating with regional initiatives whose objectives are to seek better understanding of FGR related topics. The latter includes the International Neem Network, the ASEAN Peatland Forests Project, and the ASEAN Biodiversity Centre. All these involvements have given a boost to the government’s efforts geared towards implementing programs and projects designed to create better appreciation of the value of and the need to conserve and sustainably use the country’s forest genetic resources. The formulation and implementation of a National Forest Tree Improvement Program is an imperative to tie in all the past and present efforts on the conservation and the sustainable use of country’s forest genetic resources.
This report also highlights the wealth of the Philippines in terms of its forest genetic resources. From its forests comes a multitude of goods – food, wood, medicine and “cosmeceuticals”, non-wood forest products, and raw materials for the handicrafts and novelty items. Methods are now evolving towards the effective valuing of the services that come with the sustainable management of the forest genetic resources. With this development is the increasing appreciation of the concept of payment for environmental services that will work towards more vigorous efforts towards the sustainable use of such resources. In the Philippines too, current interest on REDD+ very well complements the thrust on the conservation of existing forest genetic resources of the nation.
In the face of such developments are challenges that the country will have to address to further the moves towards such conservation efforts. These include the need for more skills and knowledge on forest genetic resources among the country’s environmental managers and the general public, the conduct of more scientific studies aimed at generating additional basic knowledge on forest genetic resources and producing better technologies to address the regeneration of the same including more efficient utilization schemes, the need for more surveys of the protected areas in the country, establishment of more facilities for the ex-situ conservation of forest genetic resources, and the implementation of an efficient and effective monitoring system of conservation priority protected areas.


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