The Philippines’ wood industry can become leading wood supplier with more investments in tree plantations

The Philippines could be a leading supplier of wood if the industry were opened up to investment in tree farming as an alternative to cutting down standing forests, the Philippine Wood Producers Association (PWPA) said.

“One million hectares can produce something like 300 million cubic metres of wood, so we can be a global superpower in wood. But we have to get our act together,” PWPA Chairman Charlie H. Liu told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of the two-day Philippine Wood Expo 2019 in Pasay City.

He cited a report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, which projects global wood consumption growth of 2% a year over the next 10 years, with demand expected to hit 1.1 trillion cubic meters by 2030 from the current 900 million cubic meters.

He said the Philippines has nine million hectares of forest land, with the potential to generate P1 to P1.5 trillion worth of forest products and more than 200,000 jobs.

“We can take advantage of it, not just for domestic consumption, but for export. Look at Vietnam, it exported $5 billion in 2014, and this year they will be a $10-billion exporter of wood furniture. In the next five years they will become a $20-billion wood exporter,” he said.

He said that the government should work with the private sector to come up with laws that would attract investment in wood-related businesses.

“Work with the private sector and come up with relevant laws that would make it very attractive for investors to come in, invest into tree farming, and then protect their investment because it’s a 10-year commitment. Administrations change every six years, and you’ll never know what is going to happen. You need the law by your side,” Mr. Liu said.

He said that PWPA has been pushing the government to permit sustainable tree farming, which could generate P1 trillion annually.

“What we want to look into is sustainable tree farming, which is plantation forestry. This is where we can plant (trees) like cacao, rice, corn, and then make money out of it,” he said.

“If we plant one million hectares through sustainable tree farming, it can be a sustainable P1-trillion industry every year, or $20 billion every year,” he said.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, in August the Philippines exported forest products account for only $39.885 million of the $6.25 billion in total exports.

“In Asia, more and more people are getting wealthier, and they are consuming more wood products, and for us, nasa atin yan (it is our choice) to take advantage of it or not,” he said.