Haven,t been out and about much so no pretty pictures this time.
Just been reading up on the Forestry industry here and was a little shocked by what I found , although after nearly 4 yrs here not much shocks me, but this did. Did you know that Luan is almost extinct here! Luan is the primary wood sold as Philippine mahogany, among about six other species including Tanguile, meranti, various species of shorea, saraya, bagtikan, and mayapis . According to Holden Clarke of Clarke veneers and plywoods the philippines exports 1% of what was exported 10 yrs ago. What you are getting is probably from Malaysia or Indonesia. Between corruption, mismanagement and internal conflict ( mills have been burned out for not paying “protection money” to the MILF and NPA) the once abundant stocks of luan are gone.
And it doesn,t stop there. Narra is the most famous and revered tree in the country, used for everything from floorboards to fine furniture, but it to is almost gone. It,s been illegal to log it for years now but the lure of big money is too much for the poachers who can get 140 peso a board foot for it, compared to around 30peso for gmellina or palochina (pine). In april 2007 police stopped a fish dealers truck and behind the crates was 3000 board feet of Narra flitches. Thats around 420000 peso in the raw and well over a million after it,s made into furniture. To put that in perspective, the 2 bedroom townhouse I live in has a market value of about 1.2 million.
In a town in central Luzon (I,m being deliberatly vague on names for my own good here) the son of the mayor was convicted of illegal logging in 2004 and yet today is connected with a sawmill processing an estimated 65000 bft. According to members of the Task force Sierra Madre,the loggers use “recycled” permits from the government supplied by insiders. Two employees in Quezon province are facing charges for similar activity. Loggers use the rivers to evade checkpoints but police raids did manage to seize 80000 bfd from the Northern Sierra Madres but it,s really a drop in the bucket. It,s gotten to the point where priests from Isabela have engaged in hunger strikes to protest the continuing illegal logging. Friars leading the movement have also been sent death threats.
Theres no quick fix for this as the striping of natural resources is a continuing problem in all industries here including minning and fishing and the needs of the farmers and fishermen must be considered. Replanting efforts have been somewhat unsuccessful as most of the Native species are so slow growing, although pine and Gmellina plantations have been successful.
Where does this leave guys like me? It must be assumed any hardwood I buy is unlikely to be legal and I cant morally justify the purchase unless it comes from demolition yards, which just leaves the plantation woods. Gmellina is an excellent timber. Stable and easy to machine with a grain that can have a lovely shimmer to it when quarter sawn, it also stains well. The other option is Palochina which seems to be various species of pine that suit country peices well, although filipinos look down there noses at it ,but being from a pine producing nation I think it,s pretty good, and cheap. It,s just another challenge for the woodworker here
-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand