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Palawan Leads Deforestation in the Philippines and No One Knows About It

Palawan is no longer the ‘last frontier.’
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In 2010, the Philippines had 13.2 million hectares of natural forest, extending over 62 percent  of the archipelago’s land area. Last year, the country lost 46,800 hectares of forest. That is larger than Cebu City and most of the cities in Metro Manila. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

In the last 20 years, mining companies and illegal loggers have destroyed 1.29 million hectares of tree cover in the Philippines, an area equivalent to the size of Palawan—the country’s fifth-largest island.

Global Forest Watch or GFW is an online open-access platform that arms biologists, scientists, and conservationists with data  to help them protect and monitor forests. 

“By harnessing cutting-edge technology, GFW allows anyone to access near real-time information about where and how forests are changing around the world,” GFW writes on its website. 

GFW was launched in 2014 to help people put a stop to illegal logging and deforestation. It has provided crucial data on the rapid destruction of the forests in the Amazon to the jungles of Borneo, and even the rampant destruction of Palawan—supposedly the Philippines' “last frontier.”

Palawan Has Lost the Most Forest Cover

In the graphic below, you can see how much tree cover loss Palawan has sustained from 2001 to 2020. 

Photo by Global Land Analysis and Discovery | University of Maryland.
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Photo by Global Forest Watch.

“In the Philippines, the top 11 regions were responsible for 51 percent of all tree cover loss between 2001 and 2020. Palawan had the most tree cover loss at 163,000 hectares compared to an average of 15,900 hectares,” GFW reported. 

Other regions that suffered the most deforestation in the same period were Agusan del Sur (116,000 hectares), Zamboanga delNorte (59,000 hectares), Davao Oriental (48,800 hectares), and Quezon Province (44,200 hectares). 

Over 31,000 Deforestation Alerts in August 2021

In just the span of one week from August 14 to August 21, there were 31,025 GLAD Alerts reported in the Philippines. It stands for Global Land Analysis and Discovery. 

It is a deforestation alert produced by the GLAD lab at the University of Maryland using Landsat images to detect recent forest disturbance weekly at 30-meter resolutions. 

Palawan also leads the charts when it comes to deforestation alerts. According to GFW, the island was reported to have had an affected area of 939 hectares where deforestation was detected in the last four weeks.

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Photo by Global Forest Watch.

Silver Lining: Reforestation in Palawan

According to the same report by GFW, Palawan remains the top region in the Philippines with the most tree cover at 1.16 million hectares. 

From 2001 to 2012, the province achieved 28,000 hectares of tree cover gain, which represents 10 percent of the recovered tree cover in the Philippines. It goes to show that reforestation efforts work, but need to catch up with the rapid decline of forests in the country. 

Photo by Global Forest Watch.
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View Global Forest Watch’s report on the Philippines here.

Sources:

Global Forest Watch. “Location of deforestation alerts in Philippines”. Accessed on 25/08/2021 from www.globalforestwatch.org.

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