BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: The Almaciga (Agathis philippinensis) tree, one of the Philippines’ endangered forest trees found in the Sierra Madre mountains, is rapidly vanishing, according to the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca).
Searca Director Dr. Gil Saguiguit Jr. said the latest study showed that heartwood rotting as well as destructive and excessive tapping of the resin may eventually lead to the extinction of the almaciga.
“In order to prevent the extinction of the economically significant almaciga tree, there is a need to introduce the indigenous tribesmen of the Sierra Madre Mountains and the forests of Palawan to the correct tapping or extracting of almaciga resin,” Saguiguit said.
To help prevent the almaciga from going extinct Searca has trained 144 IPs in Palawan and Sierra Madre to improve their resin harvesting methods.
“It is a welcome development that the government has decreed making it unlawful to cut almaciga trees and that efforts are being undertaken to produce more seedlings to beef up the dwindling stocks in Aurora and Palawan,” Saguiguit said
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red Data Book Guide in 2008 has defined almaciga, one of the very few conifer timber species endemic to the Philippines, as an endangered tree.
Almaciga also grows in almost all mountainous forests, particularly in Quezon, Zambales, Palawan, Cagayan, Abra, Kalinga Apayao, Nueva Vizcaya, Samar, Zamboanga, and Davao. It can grow as high as 60 meters with a trunk diameter of 3 meters.
It is highly prized for its resin, known worldwide as the “Manila copal” which is being used for making varnish, lacquer, soap, paint, printing ink, linoleum, shoe polish, floor wax, plastic, water proofing material, and paper sizing.
Locally, the almaciga sap is used as incense in religious ceremonies and for making torches, caulking boats, mosquito smudge, patent leather and sealing wax.
The Philippines is one of the biggest exporters of Manila copal, and tapping the almaciga tree for resin is a significant income-generating activity among the forest settlers.
From 2000 to 2009, the Philippines exported the almaciga resin to France, Germany, Japan, Spain, China and Switzerland, earning for the country an average of $188,900 a year from the sale of 202,400 kilos of the resin, according to Searca.
Training courses for propagating the tree is being conducted at Brooke’s Point and Aborlan in Palawan and at Dinapigue, Isabela and San Luis, Aurora in the Sierra Madre.
LEANDER C. DOMINGO