Friday, March 25, 2016

Save the Forest

By Anton Antonio
March 26, 2016

Forest certification is a mechanism for forest monitoring, tracing and labelling of timber, wood and pulp products and non-timber forest products, where the quality of forest management is judged against a series of agreed standards.  Credible forest certification covers much more than just logging and harvesting practices but also accounts for the social and economic well-being of forest and plantation workers, local/upland communities, transparency and inclusiveness in the planning, implementation and decision-making process.

Forest certification is largely seen as the most important initiative in the last ten years that aims to promote the best sustainable forest management practices.  Sustainable forest management is a key component for a future where people can live in harmony with nature.

Forest products are renewable which sets them apart from other natural resources.  It is therefore important to note that the sustainable use of renewable forest products can generally help provide forest dependent communities with shelter, fuel, medicines, livelihood opportunities and other services… on top of providing a home for the numerous flora and fauna.  Improving forest biodiversity is a critical component in climate change mitigation initiatives.

Prohibiting the use of forest products is not a viable solution as it hinders on socio-economic considerations for forest-dependent communities.  As an alternative, sustainable forest management practices is the key concept which forest certification is promoting.  Forest certification, however, will only work when the system includes (1) a comprehensive management standard, (2) a rigorous control mechanism and (3) a broad involvement and participation of economic, environmental and social stakeholders.  Sustainable and responsible forest management together with a credible and acceptable system of forest certification plus sound regulations and legislation may be the perfect combination of solutions to our declining forest cover.

At present, there is a wide spectrum of forest certification systems and schemes.  The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) --- an international non-governmental organization, founded on April 29, 1961 and based in Morges, Switzerland, working in the field of biodiversity conservation and preservation and the reduction of humanity’s footprint on the environment --- considers the Forest Stewardship Council (FCS) to be the best forest certification system as it provides for environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable and sustainable forest management international standards.  On the other hand, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) --- an international non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, dedicated to the promotion sustainable forest management through third-party certification --- is largely viewed as the international body that assists local forest certification systems craft their own domestic standards.  On the 1st of March 2016, under the guidance and sponsorship of the PEFC, the National Governing Board of the Philippine Sustainable Forest Certification (NGB-PSFC) system was formally launched and organized through the signing of the Framework Agreement.

The forest certification initiative may not be the generic solution to our dwindling forest resources but this, together with consistent law enforcement, rationalization of the wood industry and DNA mapping, could provide an ideal framework in our effort to save the forest.

Thoughts to promote positive action…

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