Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme

Assessment of Policies on Non-Timber Forest Products – Country Study: Philippines

October 13, 2020

This paper assessed the policies and the regulatory environment of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in the Philippines. The growing economic importance of NTFPs in the Philippines can be seen in the increasing collection of forest charges derived from them. There has been an increasing value of forest charges collection attributed to NTFPs over the past decades. In community-managed forest areas, NTFPs remained to be a viable source of livelihood in the country. To date, there are several policies and legislation issued that involves NTFPs, which have their own strengths and weaknesses. Certain policies provide for rules and regulations governing the disposition, harvesting, development, and utilization of forest products, including NTFPs. These policies allow for more opportunities in the sector.

There are several challenges, however. Most of these policies are either outdated or have limited cover-age. Most of the policies are primarily for permitting and collection of forest charges and management is limited to requirements of harvesting volume, size, and some with inventory. All the policies have prohibited the gathering and harvesting of these NTFPs inside protected areas. At the country level, there is absence of an official classification of NTFPs. A comprehensive policy or a framework for NTFP development is also not in place and has been identified as one of the gaps to the development and sustainability of the sector; there is insufficient baseline data, and advances in research and development is not at par with existing policies.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is the primary government agency responsible for the conservation, management, development and proper use of the country’s environment and natural resources. Aside from DENR, several government agencies, special bodies (e.g. Palawan council for sustain-able development), state colleges and universities, the private sector, civil society organizations and peoples’ organizations are among the key stakeholders that play an important role in NTFP development and management. An inter-agency technical working group was constituted by the DENR to facilitate the development of a comprehensive NTFP policy framework focusing on standards of production, collection, harvesting and transport of NTFPs. The TWG agreed upon and proposed 5 major classification of NTFPs in the country: (1) Food, beverages and spices; (2) pharmaceutical, cosmetic and medicinal; (3) Industrial, chemicals and biochemicals; (4) Fibers & structural materials; and (5) animal-derived products.

Assessment of NTFP policies and regulations were conducted. In terms of community access to NTFPs for harvest, utilization, production and management, communities’ access to NTFPs in forestlands is linked with existing tenure system and associated rights. DENR issues various tenure agreements in forest-lands. These holders are required to submit to the DENR, management plans and work plans, which includes a socio-economic profile that illustrates the importance or use of NTFPs. In communities under the Community Based Forest Management Agreement (CBFMA), they have full access rights to forests and forest resources for 25 years renewable for another 25 years, and can designate areas for various uses, including NTFP plantation or processing. In protected areas, organized communities living in multiple use and buffer zones are given 25-year tenure security (PACBRMA) and can harvest NTFPs in non-restricted zones. Access rights to NTFPs is broader in scope for indigenous peoples due to the constitution of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), recognized right of ownership by virtue of native title over ances-tral domains. While policies are generally positive for communities’ access to NTFPs in forestlands, the poli-cies are short on issues of overlap of tenure. Policies and practice are limited to subsistence and traditional or customary use in terms of harvesting and gathering of NTFPs.

Capacities and resources of the community to develop and update their management plan is quite a challenge. Management of NTFPs at the community level in social forestry and ancestral domain areas are in policy and should be in accordance with their management plans.

In terms of NTFP transport and trade, communities are required to apply to DENR for permits to harvest and transport of NTFPs from forestlands. Regulations on transport and commercialization of forest products and NTFPs are in place. The process is long, costly, and tedious and involves multiple government agencies other than the DENR, for instance the LGUs can also impose taxes and fees. The bureaucratic delay in issuing permit takes 10 times longer than intended in the policy.

On the recognition and protection of indigenous knowledge, systems, and practices on NTFP use and management, Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSPs) are threatened by lack of interest or other priorities of the indigenous peoples youth and the issue of ancestral domains issued with resource use instruments by the DENR that limits the primacy of IP rights.

For value addition and processing of NTFPs, various government institutions, NGOs and academe are involved in research to improve the income stream from NTFPs in the country. However, there is no comprehensive inventory or assessment of NTFPs to support research on value addition. NTFP research and development is limited and considered of low importance. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has offices that help on value addition that is accessible to community enterprises.

Meanwhile, forest communities were not able to access the various trust funds to support their forest enterprises and NTFP development due to various technical issues in the national treasury. Some financ-ing for NTFPs is also allotted by the law, for example, the Philippine Tropical Fiber Law. Investment and partnership for NTFPs are government-driven or mandated, but this has not been effective in terms of bringing in needed support for NTFP enterprise development. The growing interests on NTFPs lacked the level of investment and partnership needed for scaling up.

Several cases and examples on the ground where policies provided bottlenecks and facilitated community forestry enterprises, trade and marketing and value addition for NTFPs have been presented. Some of the bottlenecks were experienced by the Samahan ng mga Palaw’ano sa Amas Brooke’s Point (SPABP) in Palawan and Pigteponen livelihood center in Quezon province experienced lengthy and costly permitting. For the Macatumbalen CBFM & Coastal Association MABAFCOMA, a Community-Based Forest Management Agreement (CBFMA) holder in Palawan, is hindered by the lack of support to update their resource management plan and the lack of human resources for the DENR field office to support them.

Based on the analysis of the policies, the paper provided the following key recommendations to operate, enhance or develop NTFPs: (1) Comprehensive and inclusive resource inventory/assessment of NTFPs across the country with the participation of all community stakeholders; (2) Simplification and harmonization of existing rules and regulations governing the development, processing, management, utilization, transport and marketing of NTFPs; (3) Education and information and capacity building within DENR and key agencies on NTFPs and its economic and socio-cultural importance; (4) continuing the issuance of favorable policies and expanding social forestry/community areas; and (5) creation of a NTFP roadmap covering policy formulation, governance, field practices, capacity building, research and development and marketing of NTFPs.