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February 1, 2011 marked an exciting change in the dynamics of Philippine

environmentalism. On this date, His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III issued an order
that is intended to respond to the problem of forest denudation and environmental
degradation in our country.
Executive Order (EO) No. 23 could not have come at a better time. We have reached a
state where we humbly admit that our environment is sick and needs rehabilitation. We
feel alarmingly trapped between floods, landslides, hot weather and dirty air. All these are
caused by depriving ourselves of a most potent resource: our trees.
Over the years, extractive activities have resulted in the thinning of our forest cover from
80% in 1910 to 18% in 2010, a century after. Sadly, the denudation of our forests has
reached such an alarming level that efforts to reforest may hardly keep up with the rate of
destruction.
Hence, in pursuit of protecting our remaining trees and increasing our forest cover,
President Aquino took the bull by the horns, and EO 23 was born.
The EO has sparked interest among naysayers, and garnered the support of some local
executives and environment groups, but it also raised questions from the local wood
industry and skeptics in the political arena.
To further our understanding of this executive order, let us explore its intentions,
components and pertinent features.

Laws Intent
EO 23 declares a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and
residual forests of the entire country and creates the anti-illegal logging task force. The
intention of President Aquino in creating the said EO is to uphold our intergeneration
responsibility to protect the environment and to prevent further destruction wrought by
natural disasters.
Still fresh in peoples memory are the occurrences of landslides in Ormoc, Baguio, Leyte
and Aurora which killed thousands of our countrymen; and the disasters brought by
Reming, Ondoy, Pepeng and Frank which destroyed hundreds of lives and millions worth of
properties. And just recently, our country witnessed the devastation in Bicol, Samar and
Surigao. In the midst of perceived further threats of more landslides and the destructive
potentials of the La Nina phenomenon, EO 23 was signed.
The EO underscored the States obligation to protect the remaining forest cover areas not
only to prevent such calamities, but also to preserve biodiversity, protect threatened
habitats and sanctuaries of endangered and rare species, and to allow for the natural
regeneration of residual forests and the development of plantation forests.

Components and Pertinent Features

In order to implement the moratorium, EO 23 has prohibited the Department of


Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) from issuing and renewing logging contracts
and tree cutting permits in all natural and residual forests. When we say natural and
residual forests, we refer to forests composed of indigenous trees that were not planted by
man.

On the other hand, a plantation forest is a man-made forest, where trees were planted
pursuant to a management agreement with the DENR.

The

log ban is in place indefinitely.

The only exemptions allowed by the ban are the clearing of road right-of-way by the
Department of Public Works and Highways, site preparations for tree plantations,
silvicultural treatment and similar activities, provided that all logs derived from the said
cutting permits shall be turned over to the DENR for proper disposal. Likewise, the ban
may allow tree cutting associated with cultural practices pursuant to the Indigenous
Peoples Right Act (IPRA) subject to strict compliance with existing DENR guidelines.
The Executive Order also tasks the DENR to review all existing forestry agreements and
immediately cancel those that have violated forest laws at least twice. Furthermore, said
agreements will be immediately terminated if the holders engage in logging activities in
any natural or residual forest.
The DENR was given authority to close all sawmills, veneer plants and other wood
processing plants that are unable to present proof of sustainable sources of legally cut logs
for a period of at least five years starting this year.

A National Greening Program shall likewise


be developed by the DENR through the DA-DENR-DAR Convergence Initiative. The NGP is
meant to anchor on the governments goal of poverty reduction, food, security, and climate
change adaptation and mitigation. To effect this, the EO has directed the DENR to partner
with agencies such as the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher
Education (to initiate the necessary educational drive campaign), the Department of
Interior and Local Government (to help in establishing communal tree farms for firewood
and other purposes), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (to identify the
upland farmers covered by the NGP as priority beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer
program), the Department of Budget and Management (to provide the funds for the
production of quality seedlings for reforestation programs from available funds of the
government), and the private sector and other concerned agencies and institutions (to raise
funds and resources for tree planting activities).

The Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force

For the EO to be more effective, we need environmental law enforcers. Consequently, EO


23 created the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force to enforce the moratorium on logging and
take the lead in the anti-illegal logging campaign.

The Task Force is to be chaired by the DENR


Secretary or his duly authorized representative. To assist him are the heads or
representatives of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of
National Defense, Philippine National Police, and Armed Forces of the Philippines. Said
agencies are also mandated to assist the DENR in enforcing other existing environmental
laws.
All illegally-cut timber confiscated by the Task Force shall be donated to the Department of
Education and shall be utilized to produce more school chairs and build classrooms.

Not a Total Log Ban


Local governments and some environmental groups welcomed the EO with enthusiasm.
However, the industry that would be most affected by the order was not as jubilant. An
immediate rush of appeals and protests by members of the wood industry greeted the new
Executive Order. The Philippine Wood Producers Association (PWPA) warned about the wide
impact the EO will have on jobs and revenues. It projected losing at least P30 billion in
investments and $1 billion in annual exports from the log ban. This sentiment was echoed
by the Society of Filipino Foresters, Inc., which asserted that continuing the log ban will also
result in the retrenchment of 650,000 workers, drive up the cost of wood and housing units,
and will have serious repercussions on the economy.
DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje tried to allay their fears by explaining that the EO does not
impose a total log ban. Timber companies could still legally cut trees in tree plantations.
What are being protected are only the natural forests and the residual forests. There are
still hundreds of thousands of hectares of plantation forests that wood producers can
utilize, Secretary Paje clarified.
As to the potential economic losses, it must be said: Environmental protection should now

come first over business decisions.


Conversely, the denudation of forests has allowed calamities to wreak havoc on the country
in the past years, causing not just thousands of lives lost and families displaced, but also
millions of pesos worth of damages to infrastructure and agriculture. For the year 2010
alone, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda noted that calamities brought about the
loss of 36 lives, injured 32 others, displaced thousands of families, and hurt the economy
with an estimated damage cost of P142 million to P306 million.
The good news about this EO is that more tree plantations could sprout as a result of the
log ban. It could pave the way for the development of more tree farms and industrial tree
plantations necessary to improve timber supply. Secretary Paje stressed that timber
extraction has now become a solely what-you-plant-is-what-you-cut enterprise.

By ending their reliance on timber extracted


from natural forests, the countrys wood producers are encouraged to expand their
harvesting operations in tree plantations. This poses a challenge for them, and for all of us,
to show that indeed we aim for sustainable forestry and that we genuinely care for our
environment.
In the past, we lost many of our trees in order to acquire timber. And yet, in exchange for
timber, we lost the many other uses of trees such as protection against topsoil erosion and
landslides, storage of water reserves during droughts, production of oxygen, and absorption
of carbon dioxide which could have significantly reduced air pollution. If we continue to
lose our tropical forests, we lose more than just timber; we too lose the wildlife to which the
forests provide habitat. And finally, less trees would mean less fruits to harvest, less
sources of medicinal preparations, and less opportunities for the aesthetic pleasures that
many trees offer.
EO 23 can help us ensure that future generations may still reap these benefits we now
enjoy from trees. It has renewed our hopes for a possible sustainable future for forestry in
the Philippines.#

EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 23


DECLARING A MORATORIUM ON THE CUTTING AND
HARVESTING OF TIMBER IN THE NATURAL AND RESIDUAL
FORESTS AND CREATING THE ANTI-ILLEGAL LOGGING
TASK FORCE

WHEREAS, the entire country has been a witness to the everchanging climatic conditions brought about by the La Nia
phenomenon;
WHEREAS, the destructive effects of the phenomenon on the
environment are apparent in many regions in the country and it is
an accepted fact that the effects are worsened due to the
continuous denudation of the forest zones;
WHEREAS, the watersheds and the river systems supporting
existing or proposed hydroelectric power facilities, irrigation works
or existing water facilities are in need of immediate protection and
rehabilitation;
WHEREAS, it is the obligation of the State to protect the
remaining forest cover areas of the country not only to prevent
flash floods and hazardous flooding but also to preserve
biodiversity, protect threatened habitats and sanctuaries of
endangered and rare species, and allow natural regeneration of
residual forests and development of plantation forests;
WHEREAS, it is imperative to arrest the degradation, pollution
and contamination of the river and water systems and to stem the
wanton destruction of the forest resources;

WHEREAS, Article

XII,

Sec.

of

the

1987

Philippine

Constitutional provides that the exploration, development, and


utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and
supervision of the State.
NOW, THEREFORE, I BENIGNO S. AQUINO, III, President of
the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, do
hereby order:
Section 1. Definition of Terms. For the purpose of this Executive
Order, the following terms shall be defined:
1.1 Forest Land - it includes public forest, permanent forest or
forest reserves, and forest reservations.
1.2 Natural and Residual Forests- are forests composed of
indigenous trees, not planted by man.
1.3 Plantation Forest is a forest where the trees were planted
pursuant to a management agreement with the DENR.
1.4 Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) is a
production sharing contract entered into by and between the
DENR and a qualified applicant wherein the DENR grants to the
latter exclusive right to develop, manage, protect and utilize a
specified area of forest land and forest resources therein for a
specified period consistent with the principle of sustainable

development and in accordance with an approved Comprehensive


Development and Management Plan (CDMP).
1.5 Socialized Integrated Forest Management Agreement
(SIFMA) is an agreement entered into by and between a natural
or juridical person and the DENR wherein the latter grants to the
former the right to develop, utilize and manage a small tract of
forest

land

consistent

with

the

principle

of

sustainable

development.
1.6 Community-Based Forest Management (CBFMA) is an
agreement entered into by and between the government and the
local community in a locality, represented by a peoples
organization as forest managers, for a specific period wherein the
local community is allowed to develop, utilize and manage a small
tract of forest land consistent with the principle of sustainable
development.
1.7 National

Greening

Program

is

DA-DENR-DAR

Convergence Initiative anchored on the governments goal of


poverty reduction, food, security, climate change adaptation and
mitigation.
Section 2. Moratorium on the Cutting and Harvesting of
Timber in the Natural Forests A moratorium on the cutting and
harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forests of the

entire country is hereby declared unless lifted after the effectivity


of this Executive Order. In order to implement this policy, the
following are hereby instituted:
2.1 The DENR is henceforth hereby prohibited form issuing
logging contracts/agreements in all natural and residual forests,
such as Integrated Forest Management Agreements (IFMA),
Socialized Integrated Forest Management Agreements (SIFMA),
Community-Based Forest Management Agreement (CBFMA) and
other agreements/contracts with logging components in natural
and residual forests;
2.2 The DENR is likewise prohibited from issuing/renewing tree
cutting permits in all natural and residual forests nationwide,
except for clearing of road right of way by the DPWH, site
preparation for tree plantations, silvicultural treatment and similar
activities, provided that all logs derived from the said cutting
permits shall be turned over to the DENR for proper disposal. Tree
cutting associated with cultural practices pursuant to the
indigenous Peoples Right Act (IPRA Law) may be allowed only
subject to strict compliance with existing guidelines of the DENR;
2.3 The DENR shall review/evaluate all existing IFMAs, SIFMAs,
CBFMAs and other forestry agreements/contacts and immediately
terminate/cancel the agreements of those who have violated the
terms and conditions of their contracts/agreements as well as

existing forest laws, rules and regulations at least twice.


Furthermore, said agreements shall likewise be immediately
terminated/cancelled if the holders thereof engage in logging
activities in any natural or residual forest or abet the commission
of the same;
2.4 The DENR shall strictly implement a forest certification system
in accordance with the United Nations standard/guidelines to
ascertain the sustainability of legal sources and chain of custody
of timber and wood products, nationwide;
2.5 The DENR shall close and not allow to operate all sawmills,
veneer plants and other wood processing plants who are unable
to present proof of sustainable sources of legally cut logs for a
period of at least five (5) years within one month from effectivity of
this Executive Order:
2.6 The DENR through the DA-DENR-DAR Convergence
Initiative, shall develop a National Greening Program NGP in
cooperation with the Department of Education (DepEd) and the
Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to initiate the
educational drive campaign; the Department of Interior and Local
Government (DILG) to help in establishing communal tree farms
for firewood and other purposes; the Department of Social
Welfare and Development (DSWD) to identify the upland farmers
covered by the NGP as priority beneficiaries of the conditional

cash

transfer

program;

the

Department

of

Budget

and

Management (DBM) to provide the funds for the production of


quality seedlings for the NGP from available funds of the
government; and the private sector and other concerned
agencies/institutions to raise funds and resources for tree
planting.
2.7 The Department of Education shall be given priority in the use
of all confiscated logs.
Section 3. Creation of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force. To
enforce the moratorium and lead the anti-illegal logging
campaign, an Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force is hereby created.
The Task Force shall be composed of the DENR Secretary or his
duly authorized representative as Chairman and the Secretary of
the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the
Secretary of the Department of National Defense, the Chief of the
Philippine National Police, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces
of the Philippines of their respective authorized representatives ,
as members.
3.1 Mandate. The Task Force is hereby mandated to take the lead
in

the

anti-illegal

logging

campaign

and

ensure

the

implementation of this Executive Order under the supervision of


the DENR. It shall also assist the DENR in the enforcement of
other environmental laws.

3.2 Support from Government Offices and Agencies. The Task


Force may call upon the support of any department, bureau and
office of the executive branch to assist in the discharge of its
functions, such as but not limited to the provision of administrative
or technical assistance, logistical support and detail of personnel.
The DENR shall provide the secretariat for the Task Force.
3.3 Budgetary

Support. The

Department

of

Budget

and

Management shall provide the DENR an initial budget for the Task
Force in the amount of Ten Million Pesos (P10,000,000.00) which
shall be sourced from the available funds of the government.
Release of the additional amounts shall be subject to the approval
of the President.
Section 4. Repealing Clause. All executive orders, rules, and
regulations and other issuances or parts thereof which are
inconsistent with this Executive Order are hereby revoked,
amended, and/or modified accordingly.
Section 5. Implementing Guidelines Upon its formation, the
Task Force shall immediately formulate the guidelines for the
implementation of the policies set forth in this Executive Order.
Section 6. Effectivity. This Executive Order shall take effect
immediately after publication in a newspaper of general
circulation.

DONE in the City of Manila, Philippines, this 1st day of February


in the year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Eleven.
(Sgd.) BENIGNO S. AQUINO III