Furniture Makers Seek Deregulation of Timber Imports

The country’s furniture industry has called on the Aquino government to stop regulating the importation of wood products used in the manufacture of furniture and wood-based home and office furnishings.

The call was made by Nicolaas K. de Lange, president of the Chamber of Furniture Industries of the Philippines going into the seventh month of the nationwide logging moratorium imposed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR.)

De Lange explained that deregulating wood imports will ease the pressure in the use of locally grown plantation wood which is the only logging activity that has been exempted from the logging ban and deter illegal logging.

It will also save the local wood industry, many of them already in a state of hibernation since the ban took effect, from total collapse.

The furniture industry leader explained that the landed cost of imported wood averages about P50 per board foot, which is much lower than the price of plantation wood at an average of P70 per board foot since the ban was imposed.

The Philippine government had not relaxed the tight regulation of timber imports before or after the nationwide logging ban, making it very difficult for furniture makers to source their raw materials locally and abroad.

Next to food exports, the export segment of the domestic furniture industry is known as second highest employer of the export sector, directly employing close to a million people during the pre-crisis years.

The problem with plantation wood, De Lange said, is that, despite its exemption from the ban, is still subjected to so many permits from cutting to shipment. This subjects the legal purchase and transport of local plantation wood very difficult.

He said that it is very easy to identify plantation timber from natural growth timber. There are only two major species that are grown in small backyard plantations, paper wood known as gemilina which is white wood and Philippine mahogany which is not real mahogany but a native species of red and white lauan that looks like mahogany.

The government must also deregulate the cutting and trading of plantation wood in the Philippines, the furniture industry leader suggested.

It is ironic that wood plantation owners in Mindanao export raw Philippine mahogany timber to Vietnam as raw material for that country’s furniture export industry while local furniture makers in Cebu and Luzon are buying their raw materials from the United States and other timber-rich countries.

This is true because it is easier and cheaper to export the locally grown timber than shipping the same across the islands, de Lange observed.

— Abe P. Belena, Reposted from PHILEXPORT News and Features¬†

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