In this assessment Pinus merkusii is regarded as endemic to Sumatera and the Philippines: populations on the Indochinese mainland are assigned to Pinus latteri Mason. The differences between the two taxa primarily involve a grass-like stage in the mainland subpopulations that is absent in the insular populations.
Merkus pine has been extensively planted throughout Indonesia (where it is only indigenous in northern Sumatera) by the Dutch in colonial times. Indonesian foresters have continued this practice as it is the country's most important producer of pine resin. Young planted trees are better for tapping than 'old growth' trees in natural stands. Indonesia is a major producer of turpentines distilled from this resin. In the Philippines, this species is tapped together with P. kesiya, which is indigenous on these islands, but not in Indonesia. When trees have grown beyond good yield of resin, their wood is harvested for the pulp industry to manufacture paper, a process which allows final extraction of the resin in the wood. If well managed, these plantations are a renewable resource and can assist in the preservation of the natural stands of P. merkusii. The wood of higher grade is also used in house construction, panelling and furniture making.