Forest plantations are expanding worldwide. The primary objective of plantations is to grow trees to produce various wood products. Other than wood, forest plantations also provide a multitude of environmental, economic and social benefits. Their development facilitates the rehabilitation of degraded sites and helps in the protection of natural environments.
However, various environmental impacts are associated with the establishment of forest plantations - site degradation, biodiversity loss, effect on water quality and quantity and risks of pests and diseases. Specific to this study, writers in plantation forestry have raised the issue of the displacement effect of plantations to the natural forests. They said that forest plantations complement natural forests; they do not substitute.
The plantation policy of the Philippines was formulated to supply the wood requirement of the forest industries and to rehabilitate degraded and marginal lands. In the establishment of plantations, large areas of the natural forests were affected. The study aims to analyse the displacement effect of plantations on the native dipterocarp forests. Analysis of the problem is important to define the role of forest plantations in the forestry sector.
The research is divided into two major components: analysis of plantation policies and evaluation of policy implementation. In order to analyse the problem, four research questions are developed. The discussion is a focussed synthesis of relevant literature, public documents and the author's personal observations. The analysis of data gathered from project files archived in the Forest Management Bureau and in the regional offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Philippines is a major part of the study.
Result of the analysis show that early plantation policies and their modifications allowed the conversion of degraded and healthy native dipterocarp forests into industrial plantations. Most plantation projects were former timber concessions. In order to encourage the active participation of the private sector, the policy combined the management of natural forests and plantations in one management agreement. Plantation developers were given the incentive to log natural forests while growing tree crops.
The environmental impacts of plantation projects were not properly assessed. Under the previous policy, plantations were not considered as environmentally critical projects. In the Philippines, the sustainability of plantations is poorly understood.
The development of industrial plantations did not ease the pressure to log the natural forests. The combined production from plantations and natural forests was insufficient to meet the domestic demand. Results further show that the level of development of plantation projects was very low. Most projects are still categorised as grasslands and brushlands. Only a small area of plantations was established. However, because of the continuous depletion of the natural forests, it is projected that plantations will gradually expand and will play a significant role in the Philippine forestry sector.
The sustainability of plantations is a major issue. Plantation management is entirely different from the management of natural forests. While plantations provide substitute wood products, they also introduce a new ecosystem. The replacement of native forests with plantations does not conform with the international principles in sustainable forest management. This thesis has identified five policy recommendations to promote the sustainable management of plantations in the Philippines.
Key words: forest plantations, displacement effect, sustainability