Logging Blamed for Deadly Impact of Storms in Philippines

Feature story - December 7, 2004
Logging has been blamed for worsening the impact of storms that killed more than 300 people in the Philippines in late November and early December 2004. Rampant logging, both legal and illegal, has eliminated the natural protection from landslides and floods afforded by forests, which store water and hold back soil. Philippines President Gloria Arroyo has suspended logging across the nation and has vowed to crack down on illegal logging in response to the devastation.

Greenpeace identifies suspected illegal logs on a barge off the coast of central Kalimantan in Indonesia. These logs came from an area including the Tanjung Puting National Park -- home of dwindling numbers of orang-utans where logging is forbidden.

The floods in the Philippines exemplify not only the ecological tragedy of unsustainable and illegal logging, but also the devastating impacts destructive logging can have on humans. And while the Philippines does have laws to restrict logging, the industry is destructive and unsustainable, with timber from illegal sources being made legal through a process of payments and false documentation.

This is not the first time the Philippines has suffered from the environmental impacts of over-logging. In fact, logging has been so destructive to the nation that in 1987, a bill was introduced to the Philippine Congress that would put in place a 25-year ban on logging. President Arroyo is presently working with the Congress on various policy options to address the problem.

Unsustainable logging is a growing global crisis, and this disaster highlights the need for all of us to ask where our wood comes from. Greenpeace supports Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, which is akin to the "Good Housekeeping" seal, meaning that products with the FSC label are produced in accordance with strict criteria relating to sustainability and legality. Greenpeace also advocates public procurement policies that ensure our tax dollars are not being used to fuel illegal and other destructive logging.

We have been working for several years to curb the illegal logging crisis. Some may remember the recent culmination of this work in the U.S. that resulted in our trial in Miami, FL for exposing shipments of illegal logs coming into the Port of Miami from Brazil. We are working around the world to expose similar scandals of illegal logging in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Amazon. As we continue this work, our hearts go out to the people of the Philippines and we wish them success.