REP. LAWRENCE “LAW” H. FORTUN
Agusan del Norte 1st District
Member for the Minority, Committee on Ecology
A lawyer by profession | Mobile number 09177292437
BREAKING NEWS: HOUSE APPROVES LANDMARK FOREST USE BILL ON 3RD & FINAL READING
[Landmark bill that protects our forests and regulates the use of forest resources]
“The proposed Sustainable Forest Management Act (House Bill 8179), which got approved on 3rd and final reading today at the House, identifies at least ten specific illegal acts to make sure the forests are sustainably managed,” said Rep. Lawrence Fortun, author of the measure and chair of the TWG that hammered out the contents of the bill for passage in the Committee.
Fortun said the bill was “difficult to craft and needed a lot of detailed policy work and consultations.”
The illegal acts specified in HB 8179 are:
Harvesting, Gathering, Collection , or Possession of Forest Resources from Protection Lands (Sec. 41)
Illegal Harvesting, Gathering, Collection , or Possession of Forest Resources as an Act of Economic Sabotage (Sec. 42)
Grazing Livestock in Forest Lands without Authority (Sec. 43)
Unlawful Occupation of Forest Lands (Sec. 44)
Destruction of Forest Lands (Sec. 45)
Unlawful Operations of Sawmills, Wood Processing Plants, and Forest-based Industries (Sec. 46)
Prohibition on the Issuance of Land Titles of Tax Declarations on Forest Lands (Sec. 47)
Non-payment and Non-remittance of Forestry Fees and Chargers (Sec. 48)
Non-establishment of Tree Parks and Green Spaces (Sec. 49)
Illegal Conversion of Tree Parks and Green Spaces (Sec. 50)
The bill also provides for an undersecretary for forestry and reconstitutes the Forest Management Bureau as a line bureau with a director and assisted by two assistant directors who shall supervise the administrative and technical services respectively. There shall also be FMB Regional Directors.
“Consistent with the Forestry Profession Act, only registered professional foresters shall be appointed to these bureau positions,” Fortun said.
“HB 8179 allows special uses of forest lands in its Section 25,” Fortun also said.
These are the special uses listed: forest park; dry dock site; industrial processing site; herbal or medicinal plantation; fish drying site; communication station site; public landing site or airstrip; log pond or log depot; lumber yard; motor pool site; power station site; transmission line site; right-of-way; farm-to-market roads; government facility site; water reservoir; and renewable energy projects.
Allowed Activities in Production Forests
HB 8179 also provides for particular activities allowing for sustainable use of forest resources.
Harvesting, gathering, and collection of all planted forest resources within production forest lands, including its by-products and derivatives, shall not require any clearance from the DENR. Provided, that the volume of harvested products in consistent with the approved management plan.
The DENR shall establish a National Forest Stock Monitoring System (NFSMS) to ensure the sustainable use of the forest resources and strengthen the timber legality assurance system for forest products.
The FMB shall set up a monitoring mechanism that will include members of the local consultative bodies.
Any request for clearance for domestic transport of forest resources submitted to the DENR shall be acted within 7 days, otherwise the clearance for transport is deemed approved.
The harvesting, gathering, collection, and transport of non-timber forest products within production forest lands shall be exempt from any government clearance.
All timber and non-timber products planted within private lands belong to the owner.
The rights of the ICCs or IPs over their ancestral lands shall be respected, provided, that the management of forest resources within those lands shall be regulated by the DENR.
The DENR shall institute measures to develop an open and competitive market for forest products including the liberalization of forest products harvesting, transport, and marketing.
Selling of offering for sale of forest resources in the international market shall comply with the certification system of the government. Failure shall be sufficient cause for the cancellation of export licenses and other permits.
All processing plants using forest resources shall be subject to existing regulations (ex. Environmental Impact Assessment). The plants should be registered with the DTI and must have been issued clearance from the concerned LGU.
Forest-based industries shall be given incentives. Agroforestry economic zones may be established.
Economic activities, practices, and forest-based enterprises of local communities and ICCs/IPs shall be supported.
The DENR may undertake the development and sustainable use of forest lands and forest resources in cooperation with qualified persons (natural/juridical) through tenure instruments.
Order of Priority
“There is an order of priority in the provision of land use rights,” Fortun said.
The order of priority is as follows:
Duly-recognized IPs, organization, and households for FMUs within ancestral lands
Holders of valid and existing forestry agreements with DENR and FMB
Investors of forest lands with FPIC
Investors on public forest lands that are not under any agreement with DENR and other persons
Any person who is party to any of the agreements mentioned shall not be allowed to transfer rights within 5 years from the issuance of the agreement. Thereafter, the person shall be able to transfer subject to a written authority from the Secretary or duly authorized representative. Provided that the transferor has complied with the terms and conditions of the agreement. Provided further, that the transferee shall assume the obligations of the transferor.
Forest Management Agreement (Sec. 23)
HB 8179 provides that the DENR and a qualified person may enter into a forest management agreement that shall be for 25 years, extendible for another 25 years.
A forest management agreement may be entered into for a single purpose or a combination of the following: agro-forestry plantations, forest plantation development, ecotourism development, forest restoration, and special uses for forest lands.
Qualified Persons (Sec. 26)
The following persons are qualified to enter into a Forest Management Agreement:
Local and ICC/IP’s households, CSOs, SMEs, and POs
Corporations or associations at least 60% Filipino-owned
LGUs, when the purpose is for public use or establishment of government centers and facilities
Other national government agencies or GOCCs, when the purpose is of national interest (ex. construction of electric transmission or distribution lines, or water reservoirs)
Benefit Sharing (Sec. 27)
The following schemes shall be observed by the parties of the FMA in relation to the sharing of benefits derived from the agreements:
Forest plantation and forest plantations with processing plants: sharing of outputs shall be based on the total gross output of the plantation harvest. Said sharing shall be done in a manner advantageous to the national interest without prejudice for incentives prescribed by the DENR.
Ecotourism: the person shall pay the State an annual user’s fee equivalent to 5% zonal value per square meter or a fraction thereof of the nearest commercial area.
Non-income generating government facilities (ex. public school, FMR, public hospitals) are exempt from paying any fee. Provided that the use of these establishments or infrastructures shall not be subject to privatization. (END)