Work is underway to increasingly attract industrial tree plantation investments in almost eight million hectares of open, denuded and degraded forest land nationwide.
“We’re re-configuring our guidelines on industrial forest management agreements (IFMAs) to make these more investor-friendly,” said Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Forest Management Bureau (DENR-FMB) Director Ricardo Calderon.
Calderon noted such a move was aligned with government’s decision to set industrial tree plantation as the top activity in its 2012 and 2013 Investment Priorities Plans’ respective mandatory list.
Both plans provide for planting tree crops, except fruit trees, for commercial and industrial purposes.
Calderon expects the flow of investments to help green the areas while promoting socio-economic development particularly in the country’s poverty-stricken uplands.
Agro-forestry, eco-tourism and biomass for energy are among the forest-compatible investments the DENR-FMB targets attracting, he said.
DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 99-53 spells out the guidelines for IFMAs, the production-sharing contracts under which the agency grants applicants “the exclusive right to develop, manage, protect and utilize a specified area of forestland and forest resource therein for a period of 25 years and may be renewed for another 25-year period, consistent with the principle of sustainable development and in accordance with an approved Comprehensive Development and Management Plan, and under which both parties share in its produce.”
Latest available DENR-FMB data show that in 2012, there were 140 IFMAs/industrial tree plantation lease agreements covering some one million hectares in various provinces nationwide.
“DAO 99-53 was designed for natural forests, however, so we’re amending this for plantation purposes,” Calderon said.
He said the revamped guidelines will include incentives for investors.
“We’re already coordinating with Board of Investments and other agencies concerned as those that’ll invest in the areas will be pioneering enterprises,” he said.
Calderon also said the guidelines will cover mechanisms for enabling government to secure its share of proceeds and other benefits from the target ventures.
The guidelines will likewise specify how government will open up the areas for investments, he added.
“It might be either on a first-come first-served basis or through bidding – we’re studying the matter,” Calderon said.
He added that the DENR-FMB earlier set mid-2014 as its deadline for finalizing DAO 99-53’s amended version.
Classified as forestland is about half of the country’s total land area covering some 30 million hectares.
Around 8.5 million has. of the forest area is open, denuded and degraded land, FMB noted.
To help facilitate entry of investors in such land, DENR-FMB will generate an inventory of open, degraded and denuded forest areas that are still available for investment.