Illicit timber trade rife in Asia Pacific, NGO says
National News – April 26, 2008
Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Hanoi
Government delegates from Asia Pacific countries say they are shocked by reports that illegal timber trade remains widespread in the region despite policies in place against it.
The British-funded Telapak Indonesia said Thursday it had carried out intensive investigations over the past 10 years and found that illegal wood trade was still common in the region.
“All countries of the Asia Pacific still suffer from illegal logging and trade activities,” Telapak forest campaigner Timer Manurung told participants at the Asia Pacific Forest Week forum in Hanoi, Vietnam.
He said the organization’s recent investigations showed about 600,000 cubic meters of logs were harvested illegally in Laos in 2006 and then smuggled to border areas — mainly Vietnam — and made into furniture for export.
The report was published in March after one year of investigation.
“We also found that Thailand and Malaysia are still consuming illegal timber from Laos,” he said.
In Indonesia it is still common to find logs cut from unsustainable forests in addition to illegal logging activities, said Timer.
Telapak’s findings, however, were refuted by Asia Pacific country delegates.
“The report is wrong. Vietnam has several regulations to fight illegal logging,” Nguyen Ton Quyen, chairman of the Vietnam Timber Association, told a press conference.
“We have forest protection police and custom offices dealing with illegal logging issues.”
Vietnam began imposing control on logging in 1992 with an 80 percent reduction in the logging quota and an export ban. Thailand banned logging in 1989.
A study by the Environmental Investigation Agency (IEA) suggested that in 2005 a total of 300,000 cubic meters of merbau logs were smuggled from Southeast Asia to Northeast Asia every month.
It said most suspicious timber exported from Southeast Asian countries was processed within Asia, and much was reexported in the form of finished products to North America and Europe.
Indonesia’s ministry of forestry secretary general Boen Purnama said the region had seen a decline in deforestation.
“But illegal logging and its related trade is still widespread, despite all efforts that many governments have made,” he told the conference.
“The fact that logs are so visible does not necessarily mean that their control is simple. There are many actors involved, many of whom have strong influence both in terms of power and finances.”
Boen, who is also chairman of the UN Forest Forum, said solutions were urgently needed to tackle illegal logging.
Asia’s forests account for over half a billion hectares, around 1 percent of which is being cleared every year, according to a report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which sponsors the Asia Pacific forestry week.
The Center for International Forestry Research (Cifor) said solving the problem of illegal logging required cooperation across national boundaries as well as the involvement of the stakeholders.
“Many people think we can stop deforestation by stopping illegal logging,” said Cifor director general Frances Seymour.
“There are a number of factors that drive forest law, many of which originate outside the forestry sector, and we have to be careful that law enforcement efforts do not harm millions of people who rely on forests for their livelihood.”