Cutting Trees on Your own Land in the Philippines is not as simple as you might imagine!
So you have finally acquired your lot and you are starting to plan a build. One of the first thing most people decide to do is clear the land to see where they will put their house, but you better go into this informed. To those of you like me, who come from a Western country, the logic that most of us have grown up with is that if a tree is on your own land, you can pretty well always just go ahead and cut it down. You go gas up the chainsaw, plan your cuts and go to it.
Here in The Philippines it is not so simple and if you don’t know the laws about cutting trees, you can get yourself in a world of trouble.
First off, you cannot use, own or even be in possession of a chainsaw without having being granted a chainsaw permit. Though I knew this, I decided to do a little bit more thorough research and was absolutely shocked at what I found. When I checked this link out. http://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra2002/ra_9175_2002.html, I must admit I kinda chuckled because to me it seems that it must be easier to get a gun in this country than it is to purchase and use a chainsaw ! If you think to yourself that, well big deal, I will just go ahead and if caught will pay the fine, you might want to think again. Take special note of the penalties which besides a fine, carry a prison sentence of between 6 and 8 years. If you are a foreigner, it is even worse for you because even if you survive 6 years in a Filipino jail, what is waiting for you at the end of the sentence is immediate deportation since it is a criminal conviction.
If you do somehow get around the chainsaw permit , the next thing is the permit for the actual tree cutting. Here things get difficult to find out accurate answers without hours of research, but from my own experience, you need to put in an application to Department of the Environment and Natural Resources. I am not sure of the actual procedure myself beyond knowing that it just ain’t worth it for me to find out. There are many different types of trees and some are totally protected while others are not, and I assume to apply for the permit for cutting trees you will need to carefully document the species, age, location and probably a lot more. I also assume that if a foreigner is involved, at some point you would need an ocular inspection form a DENR rep.
Finally, if all this is not enough to scare you away from cutting trees on your land, there is something more you need to watch out for. It is also illegal to posses or transport any lumber that is not legally obtain through permit. Again I have found this hard to research fully, but again I know from personal experience that at the barest minimum, if you get caught transporting wood, you will need to prove it was not illegally obtained.
All in all cutting trees here in the Philippines is probably something that any foreigner should stay away from. If you breach the laws in any way, the penalties are criminal, not civil or administrative which will mean jail time and deportation. Though there may be loopholes in the legalities, I for one, as a layman, just do not know where to find them and in the grand scheme of things do not feel that it is worth the risk. I have taken my trusted Attorney’s advice and done the simpliest and safest thing, and that is when I want to do any land clearing I hire a local to do it with a clear written contract that he will abide by all laws and regulations.