The forestland use planning
BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is now crafting a policy for the formulation of forestland use plan by each local
government unit in the Philippines. This proposed policy is to strengthen the existing guidelines on forestland use planning jointly issued by the DENR and the Department of the Interior and Local Governments. Such guideline mandates every LGU to formulate FLUP, which shall be integrated to their respective Comprehensive Land Use Plan or CLUP. The main intention of FLUP is to determine the most appropriate uses of forestlands, also known as timberlands, and to maximize the participation of LGUs in managing these areas. Although the primary mandate in administering forestlands remains with the national government, the LGU may enter a co-management agreement with DENR for a particular forestland under its administrative or territorial jurisdiction.
It should be noted that forestland is one major land classification presented in the 1987 Constitution, although its specific definition and descriptions are provided in the different implementing rules and regulations of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines or Presidential Decree 705. However, it doesn’t follow that classified timberlands have existing forests, since much of these areas are already denuded and converted into other land uses. Other land classifications in the country include national park (now protected area), mineral land, agricultural or alienable and disposable lands. Except for agricultural lands, other classified lands could not be alienated or privately owned. It is by this particular account that only stewardship and other contracts are issued in timberlands. Unfortunately, there are forestlands that have been covered with private land titles, which is quite dubious how the titling happened. In Negros Occidental, there are more than 400 land titles situated in forestland.
The forestland use planning is a process by which the DENR, a particular LGU and concerned stakeholders have to identify the current situation of timberland. This would include determination of the existing vegetative cover, particularly the old growth and secondary growth forests, as well as areas that have been reforested. In addition, during the planning process, it is also necessary to determine the different forestland tenure instruments issued by the DENR, such as Certificate of Stewardship Contracts and Community Based Forest Management Agreements, among others. Open access areas, meaning those sites not covered with any tenure instrument, shall also be identified.
Once the current situation of forestland is assessed, the planning will proceed in determining the best uses of forestland covering a particular LGU. The primary considerations in formulating land use options are the ecological values of the forest, especially its function as habitat to wildlife, watershed, soil erosion control and even carbon sequestration potentials. Forestlands identified as important habitats should be protected along with critical watersheds. Areas requiring rehabilitation shall also be determined and where restoration efforts shall be implemented.
Another important component of forestland use planning is the identification of areas needed for timber production. This is very
essential, especially with the imposition of logging ban, to meet local timber supplies and demands. Timber production may also be implemented in areas covered with land tenure instruments. In fact, holders of existing land tenure instruments, like CSCs and CBFMAs are supposedly required to establish tree plantations for protection and utilization purposes. Other uses, such as for ecotourism and recreational, may further be specified in the FLUP. Interested LGUs may enter a co-management agreement with DENR for open access timberlands, including critical watersheds, and ecotourism sites. However, specific strategies for the development of the areas subject of the proposed co-management shall be clearly presented in the FLUP. Once completed, the FLUP shall then be integrated into the CLUP of a particular LGU through enactment of specific ordinance by the Sanggunian and translated further into zoning ordinance.
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