Woodcraft in the Philipines #3: Logging

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Blog entry by kiwi1969 posted 04-03-2009 05:34 AM 2078 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Workshops in the Philippines Part 3 of Woodcraft in the Philipines series Part 4: the designers and makers »

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

7 comments so far

View stanley2's profile


346 posts in 3966 days

#1 posted 04-03-2009 03:39 PM

Very interesting – looking forward to your next post.

-- Phil in British Columbia

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3899 days

#2 posted 04-03-2009 09:56 PM

I have to admit, it is tough on us woodworkers at times. We are here after a lot of other people beat us to some of the best materials. Now we are beating our childeren to some good stuff as well. Hopefully we are better at preserving enough that all our resources are available to future generations. My response has been to use exotics sparingly for smaller projects and to really try to emphasize the beauty of what we do have.

I think veneering is also a great way to make less common materials go much farther. I still need to learn that skill though.

Thanks for the post. I love your ones with pictures, but everything you write is intriguing too.

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3613 days

#3 posted 04-06-2009 09:18 AM

Apreciate everyone for taking the time to view my posts. I,m always thinking of subjects that might be of interest.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View carlbigman's profile


17 posts in 3551 days

#4 posted 04-06-2009 10:47 AM

Hi All,

I have had my own little mission to the Philippines for the past 6 years and I have come to know many people there and I keep abreast of things affecting their country, too. Another problem that this illegal logging presents is that when done without proper forest management and replanting it denudes the hillsides and causes a severe increase in mudslides as the root systems that hold the soils together are gravely destabilized. With the advent of the Typhoon season there and the drastic increase in rainfall, disaster is just a few raindrops away at any given time. This was the case where a whole entire school was buried in over 36 feet of mud in the recent past years and even with a contingent of our own Army Corps of Engineers dispatched to try to aid in reaching the staff and students who were virtually buried alive in all that mud it proved to be a fruitless but heroic attempt. They could not be reached and the mud could not be restrained by the retaining wall they tried to insert around the site long enough to possibly save a few lives. It was a total tragedy and a terrible loss of innocent lives. Another factor in illegal logging is also for domestic use of wood as fuel to cook with as many Pinoy people cannot afford to own an oven or electricity still, which makes me wonder why they don’t retrofit their entire nation with 110-120 current to make it more accessible than their current 220 volt systems. Why oh why… who knows why? I don’t! Carl

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3613 days

#5 posted 04-06-2009 12:11 PM

Hi carl.I remember those tradgedies and you are right about the firewood use. Even if they do retrofit the electrical system ( good luck with that one)the kw cost is still artificially high for most to afford. Even I switch off my refrigerator at night to save cash. Don,t try to figure out why things are the way they are here, it drives you crazy. Maybe we can catch up for a cold san miguel someday.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View manilaboy's profile


177 posts in 4106 days

#6 posted 04-09-2009 09:10 AM

Hi Everyone!

Nice post Kiwi. I agree with your observations. Most of the problems in the country have grown so complex that a straightforward solution is not likely to work. One of the things that complicates matters is culture. Over the years we Filipinos evolved into taking everything for granted. We have so much of everything that we really do not care if we cut a tree for firewood. During the early years population was not a problem. So nature can pretty much take care of itself. People lived a simple life. What they need nature always provides. During the early part of the 1900’s mechanized systems of tapping these natural resources were introduced. It brought big bucks. It became big business. And nature can no longer keep up. It is only in recent years that the government became serious in its efforts to educate the people about the importance of conserving the country’s natural resources.

And the reason why we really did not develop a liking for pine? It is not a native species. Pine trees in Baguio were introduced by the Americans. Narra, kamagong, almaciga, molave, mulawin, yakal, dungon to name a few are all so plentiful then, so much more durable and so much better looking. The endemic species of trees found in the Philippines are numerous that you will be able to find a species suitable for a particular application e.g. dungon – boatbuilding, narra-furniture/house construction, yakal-house contruction (posts/beams), kamagong-furniture. Pine is relegated to crates.

And an ice cold San Miguel beer is one of the best in the world.


-- "Real jocks do it on a bench"

View carlbigman's profile


17 posts in 3551 days

#7 posted 04-09-2009 03:41 PM

I’d love to try a San Miguel or two or three… or frou.. mebbee ayt r’ ten r’ mroe *Hick (LOL!)

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