In the 1930s, under Japanese rule, Philippines was targeted by Japanaes logging companies for production of plywood to feed booming construction in Japan. The companies targeted the largest trees in the forests, red and white lauan (Shorea negrosensis or Shorea polysperma) and (Pentacme contorta [Shorea contorta] or Parashorea malaanonan). But by the end of the 1930s, the companies had begun using a new method of production that cored the trees rather than sliced them. This allowed for the use of much smaller trees (in other words, all of them) and thus began the massive logging out of the Philippines.

After the war, under U.S. control, the plywood mills began feeding the U.S. market, which, upon the return of the soldiers, was experiencing an unprecedented housing boom (partly fueled by a move to the suburbs, encouraged by the policies of the new president, Dwight Eisenhower).

The U.S. forest service encouraged the Philippine government to dub their plywood exports (still called “lauan”, even though they were made up of numerous species of Shorea trees), “Philippine mahogany” due to the similarity of the texture and the association of mahogany with wealth.

The name stuck and the exports to the U.S. rose precipitously.

By the 1970s, the Philippine forests were nearly logged out and exports started to fall. International logging companies began to turn to other countries to liquidate while in the Philippines, loggers became ever bolder in their search for what was left to cut.

By the 1980s, 80% of Philippine forests were gone. Eighty percent of the logging was to feed the demand for plywood exports.

Philippines is now a net importer of wood and no longer a player in the export of plywood. A logging ban was instituted in 1989 but was lifted in 1998 by a subsequent administration under pressure from powerful loggers.

Illegal logging is rampant in the Philippines. Anyone who opposes the powerful loggers is pressured or even targeted for assassination. Many have been killed for the demand for export timber.