Sustainability of industrial forest plantations and indigenous land rights in the Philippines : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Resource and Environmental Planning at Massey University
In the Philippines, forest management two decades ago was mainly aimed at addressing the need for economic growth. There was low priority accorded to the long-term sustainability and inherent environmental functions of the country's forests as well as social equity issues over the use of these resources. Sustainable development and the management of forest resources during that time was nothing more than just a concept used by academicians, ecologists, and forestry professionals. Forest management also ignored the concerns and interests of the forest dwellers particularly the indigenous people. It was not until the late 70s and early 80s when the effects of deforestation and rapid depletion of forest resources impacted on the country's economic, social, and environmental wellbeing, did the country realise the need to sustainably manage these resources. The need to consider the economic and social wellbeing of the forest dwellers particularly the indigenous people, also started to be recognised. The growing consciousness on the need to balance development with environmental protection, and the inherent need to sustain the flow of benefits from the country's forest resources, has become the main rationale in developing sustainable forest management policies. The primary vision was to adopt forest management policies that can help ensure that various benefits that can be derived from the forests would cater to the needs of the greatest number of Filipinos in the longest period of time without compromising the environment. The development of industrial forest plantations has been one of the major forest management strategies designed in support of such vision in the management of the country's forest resources. This study was undertaken to provide an understanding of industrial forest plantations as a forest management strategy in the Philippines and how it impacts on indigenous people and local communities. Using a qualitative research approach, case studies of three industrial forest plantations were analysed to investigate the impact of industrial forest plantations on indigenous people and local communities. The case studies were also used to examine the degree to which industrial forest plantations have been achieving economic, social, and environmental objectives by identifying and examining the factors that may enhance or hamper its sustainability as a forest development strategy. This study concluded that there is a growing role for industrial forest plantations in the sustainable management of forest resources in the Philippines. This role derives from the need to develop alternative sources of timber to the rapidly depleting sources from the natural forests, bringing socio-economic development in the upland areas in the country, and promoting environmental rehabilitation. As a forest management strategy, industrial forest plantations can promote social equity by recognising the rights of indigenous people over their land and the use of resources therein and by encouraging local community participation in the development process, which in a way helps strengthen local institutions. It was shown in this study that the integration and definition of property rights of indigenous people in any upland development programme is a critical factor that seriously affects the success and sustainability of any forest management strategy. The success of any forestry programme can only be achieved if supported by effective institutional and policy framework. Finally, it was concluded that industrial forest plantations could only be sustainable if as a policy strategy, it has been designed to consider the "bottom up" perspective where local needs, community values, and indigenous rights are consistent with the overall national goals of sustainable development.