Date of Award

Spring 1994

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Robert C Harriss


The island Province of Cebu is generally considered to represent one of the worst cases of extreme environmental degradation in the Southeast Asian region. Widespread dependence on woodfuels (biomass) by the island's 2.7 million inhabitants is often pointed to as a major cause of Cebu's environmental problems, prompting government and NGO officials in the region to call for tighter restrictions and regulation of the commercial woodfuel trade.

This dissertation was designed to assess the economic and environmental impact of woodfuel production and use in Cebu by focusing on three aspects of the local woodfuel system. First, a household energy survey was administered to 603 Cebu City households in order to quantify residential sector woodfuel consumption and determine the social, economic and cultural factors most responsible for observed fuel-choice and fuel-use patterns. Second, approximately 100 rural and urban woodfuel traders were interviewed in order to examine how the commercial woodfuel trade functions. Third, rapid rural appraisal (RRA) surveys were conducted in eight woodfuel-producing regions of the province in order to investigate the impact that urban woodfuel demand was having on rural land use practices and resource management.

Fuelwood, charcoal and other biomass fuels account for approximately 50% of energy consumption in Cebu City's residential sector. Fuelwood is used predominantly in low-income households, charcoal is used in households of all incomes for specialized cooking. The commercial woodfuel trade in Cebu is a well-established, highly specialized and competitive industry, providing income and employment to 40,000 rural and urban Cebuanos. The bulk of commercially-traded woodfuels in Cebu originate from intensively-managed agricultural and fallow lands, not from forests. The presence of urban woodfuel and other wood product markets serves as a strong incentive for increased tree-planting and management in rural areas.

These results suggest that instead of being viewed as a problem to be controlled through punitive restrictions and regulation, commercial woodfuel markets in Cebu represent an opportunity to promote more widespread tree-planting and management on the island.