Sectoral Performance Audit Report on the
Forest Management, one of the four major programs of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), deals with the promotion of effective protection; development, occupancy, management and conservation of forest lands and watersheds, including grazing and mangrove areas; reforestation and rehabilitation of critically denuded/degraded forest reservations; improvement of water resource use and development of ancestral lands, wilderness area and other natural reserves; development of forest plantations, including rattan, bamboo and other valuable non-timber forest resources; rationalization of wood-based industries; regulation of the utilization and exploitation of forest resources including wildlife, to ensure continued supply of forest goods and services.
Forest Management has six (6) sub-programs namely:
In the late 1970ís and early 1980ís, the government, through the DENR, was awarding three-year reforestation contracts to families, communities, corporations or local government units to implement forest development and rehabilitations with financial gains as the only motivating factor accorded to the proponents. However, the influx of people to the uplands due to lack of economic opportunities in the lowlands as well as continued denudation of forestlands compelled the government to launch new approaches and programs to address forest denudation.
The government adopted the community-based approach on the premise that sustainability of managing forest resources necessitates building around communities living within the forestlands and its adjacent barangays. This approach recognized the capabilities of the communities as partners in upland development. The following programs were launched employing the community-based approach:
On July 19, 1995, anchoring on the concept of "people first and sustainable forestry will follow", Executive Order (EO) No. 263 was issued prescribing community-based forest management (CBFM) as the national strategy. CBFM aims to promote the socio-economic upliftment of forest communities and achieve sustainable development/management of forest resources.
Pursuant to EO 263, DENR issued Administrative Order No. 96-29 on October 10, 1996 setting forth the rules and regulations governing its implementation. Under Section 5 thereof, the CBFM Program (CBFMP) shall apply to all areas classified as forestlands including allowable zones within the protected areas. It also integrates and unifies all people-oriented forestry programs of the government including the ISFP, FLMP, CFP and CEP, among others, and recognizes ancestral domain claims.
The audit was conducted to assess whether the implementation of CBFM activities in the selected CBFM projects in the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Palawan, Leyte and Bukidnon have been effectively undertaken to contribute in uplifting the socio-economic condition of the community and restoring forest cover on sustainable basis, and the adequacy of safekeeping measures on confiscated forest products and conveyances.
AUDIT SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY
The audit covered an assessment of the CBFM activities in the implementation of selected projects and the manner of safekeeping confiscated products using the following evaluation criteria:
The projects evaluated follow:
To meet the audit objective, the team applied the following audit techniques, among others:
The audit was conducted from September 1, 2005 to March 17, 2006 pursuant to MS/TS Office Order No. 2005-37.
The audit concluded that the implementation of CBFM activities in selected projects in the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Palawan, Leyte and Bukidnon was not effectively undertaken and that confiscated products and conveyances were not immediately disposed and not properly protected.
The lapses in the implementation of CBFM activities adversely affected the attainment of CBFMP goals of uplifting the socio economic condition of the communities and restoring forest cover on sustainable basis.
These are manifested in the failure to transform the POs into viable entities capable of managing the forest resources on a long term basis and lapses in the execution and/or inadequacies of policies, procedures and regulations as exemplified in the following cases:
These lapses contributed to the failure of the POs to sustain the survival rates attained during CSD implementation. As of inspection date, the survival rates of these projects were estimated to range only from 15 to 62%, a great reduction from the reported survival rates of 35.75 to 82.77% during CSD implementation.
The monitoring mechanism in place and databases maintained were not also adequate to assess the extent of the POís implementation of their Community Resource Management Framework (CRMF) and Annual Work Plan (AWP). In the case of PWRS, the POís accomplishments during CSD implementation could not be relied upon as reported accomplishments reflect double entries and differ from one report to another.
With regard to safekeeping measures, disposal of confiscated/forfeited logs/lumber and conveyances were not facilitated resulting in accumulation in quantities which could no longer be protected by DENR offices. These products were then deposited/impounded in open spaces exposed to the deteriorating elements.
As the DENR is implementing CBFM nationwide, the team recommended measures under Part V of the report to address these concerns.
The team forwarded the audit highlights to the concerned Regional Directors, PENROs, CENROs and the DENR Secretary on various dates, for comments. Upon request, an exit conference with the members of the Management Committee of the Forest Management Bureau (FMB) was conducted on October 31, 2006.
Generally, the concerned DENR offices recognized the existence of the problems raised in the report with some reservations. In particular, the FMB claimed that Community Organizing is a continuing process of capability enhancement and strengthening organizations and that failure to properly develop the PO to manage the forest on a long term basis can be attributed to the very limited CBFM staff and resources provided by the government. They also forwarded explanations and justifications on some issues which were incorporated in the report, where appropriate.
While community organizing is considered to be a continuing process, training and enhancement activities, apparently, end at the termination of Community Organizing contract. Thus, the capabilities of the POs were not enhanced.
On the other hand, the governmentís limitation in terms of providing adequate staff and resources to oversee the implementation of the program and provide the needed assistance should have been considered and addressed before the implementation of the program. As it is, without adequate monitoring and assistance to POs, the objective of the program of ensuring sustainable forest development could not be attained. Implementing programs and projects that could hardly be monitored and attended to would result in wastage of government resources. It also appears that lapses in the implementation emanates from inadequate conduct of feasibility studies.