BAGUIO CITY—Malacañang has exempted Ifugao’s rice terrace woodlots, called “muyong,” from the coverage of a nationwide log ban, which President Aquino imposed through an executive order in 2011, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said on Tuesday.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. issued the exemptions on January 6 in a memorandum to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, citing requests made by Ifugao Representative Teodoro Baguilat Jr. and Governor Eugene Balitang on behalf of the province’s wood-carvers.
A copy of Ochoa’s memorandum was attached to a Feb. 6 memorandum of the DENR Cordillera office, directing its forest management officials to issue tree-cutting and transport permits to the Philippine Ifugao Woodcarvers and Wood-based Industries and the Hungduan Woodworks and Handicrafts Cooperative, “subject to strict compliance with DENR guidelines.”
Clarence Baguilat, DENR Cordillera director, said the special attention granted to Ifugao wood-carvers was one of the few exemptions under Executive Order No. 23 which allows tree-cutting “provided the activity prescribes to indigenous sustainable forest management practices.”
Augusto Lagon, Cordillera regional technical director for the DENR Forest Management Service, said the Palace order recognized Ifugao’s muyong system, which the agency had classified as indigenous knowledge in 1996.
A muyong is a private or clan-owned woodlot, which serves as a “forest zone where people can gather firewood and lumber for their house-building needs through selective harvesting,” according to the 2008 book, “Impact: Sustaining Tourism and the Preservation of the World Heritage Site of the Ifugao Rice Terraces.”
The muyong acts as buffer between settlements and communal forests and “limits human activity in the upper reaches” of a mountain, where they shaped stair-like rice paddies to trap mountain soil eroded by constant rains, the book said.
The system works because “these forests capture water and hold the soil in place,” it said.
Lagon said the exemptions may help keep the price of Ifugao handicrafts down. The rest of the Cordillera is covered by a ban on tree-cutting, which compels furniture companies and other wood-based businesses to get wood from other provinces, he said. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon