Saturday, 13 September 2008

Government to audit forestry companies' wood stocks

Friday, September 12, 2008

Government to audit forestry companies' wood stocks

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Fri, 09/12/2008

Forestry companies will be required to have their wood stocks inspected from the very beginning of the purchasing chain, to help ensure the companies do not receive stocks from illegally felled timber.

Hadi Pasaribu, the Forestry Ministry's director general for the management of forestry production, said the ministry would appoint several independent assessor companies to verify the flow of the wood from upstream to downstream.

"The new verification system will involve all stakeholders, including NGOs," Hadi said.

The new system, dubbed the Wood Legality Verification System (SVLK), is expected to replace the current system run by the Forestry Industry Revitalization Agency (BRIK), which only inspects legal documents for the wood.

Under the proposed system, assessors will be deployed to conduct field checks on forests where the wood is logged.

Companies that use timber as a raw material are also required to report the origin of their wood supplies to the government for legal certification. Those failing to comply will risk being prosecuted or losing their operating licenses.

Taufik Alamin, Indonesian Ecolabeling Institute (LEI) executive director, said the new system was necessary because several importing countries, including Britain and Japan, required documents certifying the legality of the wood and the sustainability of the forests as the source of the wood.
LEI spokesperson Indra Setiadewi said the independent assessors would also function as watchdogs, legality verifiers, and license authorities.
Indonesia is on the losing side in a battle against illegal logging, despite an intense crackdown by authorities.

Widespread illegal logging stems from the huge gap between supply and demand, luring the poor and unemployed in remote areas in Kalimantan and Sumatra to plunder forests to meet orders from local and foreign tycoons.

Indonesia's timber demand this year is predicted to reach 30 million cubic meters, while the logging quota has already been set at 9.1 million cubic meters by the ministry.

According to the ministry, there are 324 logging permit holders, with the capacity to retrieve 22 million cubic meters of timber per year.

The Indonesian Forum of Environment (WALHI) claims more than 2.8 million hectares of woods are illegally logged each year.

Indonesia has the second-largest area of rainforest in the world after Brazil.
LEI and local NGOs have worked on the verification system for the past five years, since the Indonesian and British governments signed a memorandum of understanding in 2003 to tackle illegal logging.
Robianto Koestomo, Indonesian Wood Panel Association (Apkindo) chairman, argued the business sector did not need another verification system.

"It will only give us more bureaucracy and unnecessary additional costs," he said.

Taufik, however, said businesses did not have to worry about the new system because it would allow them to lodge their protests with a special institution. (KLP)