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Illegal logging in Northern Sierra Madre National Park, Isabela, Philippines

Large-scale illegal logging networks, appropriating millions of dollars, threaten primary forests and thousands of villagers, depending on the ecosystem services provided by the unique Natural Park


The Northern Sierra Madre National Park (NSMNP), covering an area of 359,486ha, is among the largest protected natural parks in the Philippines and one of the 10 priority protected areas. It is habitat to a remarkable amount of endemic birds and mammals. Around 25,000 people live within the NSMNP, 1,800 of which belong to the indigenous Agta tribe, strongly depending on a healthy environment for their livelihood. Some settlements date back to over 300 years. Outside the park, around 1.5 million people depend on the hydrological services provided by the NSMNP [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Illegal logging in Northern Sierra Madre National Park, Isabela, Philippines
State or province:Isabela province
Location of conflict:Cagayan valley
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific commodities:Timber
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Logging hotspots are largely located within riparian forests, with Narra wood (Pterocarpus indicus) being the preferred timber species, primarily used for furniture [1].

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Project area:359,486 (area of the national park)
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:25,000 (directly dependent on forest resources) - 1,500,000 (depending on hydrological services of the park)
Start of the conflict:1980
Company names or state enterprises:Digna Abad Wood Products Company from Philippines - furniture, wood processing
Relevant government actors:Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
Local Government Units (LGUs)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Tanggol kalikasan; Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park Conservation Project; Provincial Anti-Illegal Logging Taskforce; Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance Inc. (SSMNAI), comprised of: Ecowaste Coalition; Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (FMMJPIC); Franciscan Movement Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (FMJPIC); Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (SFIC); Great Work Movement; Green Convergence; Green Hope; Greenresearch Environmental Research Group (Greenresearch ERG); Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (JPICC-AMRSP); Multi Sectoral Action Group (MSAG) Aurora; Order of Friar Minors Conventual Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (OFMConJPIC); Order of Friar Minors Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation (OFM JPIC); Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA); Public Education & Awareness Campaign for the Environment (PEACE), Miriam College; Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society Inc. (SSMESI); Samahan ng mga Katutubong Agta na Ipinagtatanggol at Binabaka ang Lupaing Ninuno (SAGIBIN LN); Social Action Center - Antipolo (SAC); Task Force Sierra Madre (TFSM); Tribal Center Development (TCD); Greenpeace, and others.
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Indigenous Agta tribe
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Soil contamination
Other Environmental impactsSiltation of rivers due to transport of illegal timber, affecting fish sanctuaries
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Potential: Malnutrition
Other Health impactsHeavy floods during 2008, in which around 100 people died, were related to the increasing forestation due to increasing illegal logging.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence, Displacement
Other socio-economic impactsLoss of taxes on forest products; financing of political campaigns with illegal revenues.
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Institutional changes
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Killing of Mayor Francisco Talosig, likely related to his anti-logging campaigns
Development of alternatives:Alliances, such as the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance, aim to end illegal logging by raising awareness and by claiming the need to implement proper forest policies and protection.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Illegal logging goes on.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA)
[click to view]

[click to view]

Chainsaw Act of 2002 (RA 9175)
[click to view]

Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park (NSMNP) Act of 2001 (Republic Act No. 9125).
[click to view]

FAO Review of Forestry Policies in the Philippines
[click to view]

Palanan Wilderness Area (Letter of Instruction 917-A)
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Van der Ploeg, J., Van Weerd, M., Masipiqueña, A., and Persoon, A. 2011. Illegal Logging in the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, Philippines. Conservation and Society 9(3): 202-215
[click to view]

[4] Greenpeace Southeast Asia, April 2006 "Sierra Madre: Under Threat. A close look at illegal logging in one of the Philippines’ last remaining old growth forests" (accessed 03/06/2015)
[click to view]

Greenpeace Report: Sierra Madre:

Under Threat
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[2] online (23/01/2013): "Isabela town mayor shot dead in QC" (accessed 03/06/2015)
[click to view]

[3] Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance Inc. (Webpage) (accessed 03/06/2015)
[click to view]

Other documents

[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:A. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) / arnim "dot" scheidel "at" gmail "dot" com
Last update18/08/2019
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