Timber Booms and Institutional Breakdown in Southeast Asia

By Michael L. Ross | Go to book overview

4
The Philippines
The Legal Slaughter of the Forests

The combined effects of kaiñgin [swidden] farming and the “legal” slaughter of the forest include widespread erosion and a reported deterioration in climatic conditions. Every recent study of forestry has stressed this alarming and irresponsible destruction … The public should be shocked into a realization of the consequences of continued suicidal forest destruction.


(World Bank 1962: 16)

In 1951, the Philippines became the world's leading exporter of hardwood logs. Though heavily damaged by the war, the Philippine forest sector was in an admirable position. Almost half the nation was forested, and the logging industry used some of the most advanced harvesting practices in the tropics. Most important, the timber industry was governed by a forestry bureau with a well-trained staff, a considerable degree of political independence, a policy of promoting sustained-yield forestry, and a reputation for avoiding the corruption and patronage that plagued many other government agencies. Yet, by the 1960s, the forestry bureau had lost its political independence; its policy of sustained-yield logging was all but abandoned; and the nation's forests were on their way to being badly overlogged.

This chapter shows how the timber windfall of the early 1950s led to rent seizing, which in turn led to the deterioration of the institutions and policies that protected the forests. Between 1901 and 1951, Philippine forest policies and institutions were relatively sound; yet once windfall profits became available in the early 1950s, the forestry bureau gradually lost control of timber licensing to members of congress and the executive branch, along with the ability to keep logging to sustainable levels. These politicians used their allocation rights to grant undertaxed logging permits to their political

-54-

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Timber Booms and Institutional Breakdown in Southeast Asia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Illustrations x
  • Tables xi
  • Preface xiii
  • 1 - Introduction Three Puzzles 1
  • 2 - The Problem of Resource Booms 8
  • 3 - Explaining Institutional Breakdown 29
  • 4 - The Philippines the Legal Slaughter of the Forests 54
  • 5 - Sabah, Malaysia a New State of Affairs 87
  • 6 - Sarawak, Malaysia an Almost Uncontrollable Instinct 127
  • 7 - Indonesia Putting the Forests to “better Use” 157
  • 8 - Conclusion Rent Seeking and Rent Seizing 190
  • References 209
  • Index 229
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