Forests are inherently diverse ecosystems, as conditions found within them are ideal for supporting symbiotic ecological relationships. This is especially so in the Philippines, where the tropical climate allows forests to receive, absorb, and redistribute rainwater to support life not only within themselves, but also to other nearby and adjacent ecosystems where the water reserves are released.
Primarily, forests serve as the country’s most important source of water, thus allowing all other forms of natural resources to flourish and become productive. Forest ecosystems naturally provide clean air and food in the process. In addition, these resources also contribute through power (electricity) generation, and by providing protection as a raw material for houses and other forms of shelter. They also offer indirect benefits, such as by functioning as buffer zones from storms and prevention of soil erosion. Forests support human livelihood, although proper management and conscious conservation efforts are emphatically required in this sense.
Unfortunately, forests are heavily prone to abuse and exploitation. Over the last century, human populations consumed and altered forest landscapes in favor of agricultural development and urbanization. It is estimated that from having 70% forest cover at the start of the 1900s, only about 24% remain, based on 2001-03 satellite imagery, according to the DENR’s Forest Management Bureau. Meanwhile, according to the Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation, “deforestation continues at an average of 100,000 hectares per year or 273 hectares per day.”
The problem of forest degradation and destruction continues due to the prevalence of logging practices both legal and otherwise, mining, and land conversion. This, despite more proactive measures being undertaken to restore them at present. While initiatives such as the DENR’s National Greening Program are in place and already being executed, forests still suffer due to generally poor state-level policy-making that support activities such as logging and mining for commercial gain.