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DENR eyes farming of ‘wood of the gods’ to avert possible extinction of local species

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is eyeing to promote backyard farming of agarwood, also known as the “wood of the gods,” as a conservation measure and to save the species from rampant harvesting in the wild.

To help save the species from extinction, DENR Assistant Secretary Ricardo Calderon, concurrent director of the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) told the Business Mirror they are looking at allowing its propagation through backyard farming.

“We are looking at promoting farming of agarwood to save the species,” Calderon said.

The strategy is used in saving wild plant species with high commercial value, like orchids. This is the same principle behind the wildlife farming now being promoted for critically endangered species.

In the Philippines, the DENR promotes crocodile farming for their skin, meat and other byproducts, to help save the saltwater reptile species from extinction.

“Just like crocodile farming, we are looking at farming agarwood. [DENR] Secretary [Roy A.] Cimatu is open to this idea,” Calderon said, adding that a draft administrative order will allow interested parties to venture into agarwood farming in the future once the policy is put in place.

Calderon, a forestry expert said, science and technology will be a big factor in making agarwood farming work.

He said friendly bacteria and virus applied to a fissure or wound it obtains in the wild can be imitated, hence, producing the same aromatic scent it exudes that make it very much in demand.

“We are waiting for the secretary’s approval for this,” he said.

Authorities have been successful in intercepting shipments of agarwood in the past several months. However, this does not effectively prevent the species’ possible extinction.

By allowing agarwood farming, Calderon said there will be a legal source of the wood, hence, buyers, as well as sellers, would not have to risk being caught for involvement in the illegal wildlife trade.

Until the supply for agarwood becomes readily available and accessible from backyard agarwood farms, or even plantation, Calderon said there will always be enterprising middlemen who will look for supply and there will be enterprising Filipinos who will go to the forest to harvest agarwood hoping to cash in from the venture.

Just recently, the Bureau of Customs confiscated 73 kilos of agarwood, with an estimated total value of P62 million at the Port of Davao on December 24.

The seized agarwood is scheduled to be flown to Vietnam via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

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