Jakarta. Civil society groups have called on the government to desist from revoking the log export ban, as it could result in increased smuggling and destroy Indonesia's timber industry.
In 2001, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Industry jointly banned log exports, as they observed that log export policies had been exploited by illegal loggers and threatened the preservation of forest resources.
Last month, however, Ministry of Environment secretary general Bambang Hendroyono said the ban should be lifted in order to increase the price of the commodity on the domestic market.
"If this happens, it would boost illegal logging," environmental group Kaoem Telapak campaigner Johanes Jenito said in a statement on Wednesday (13/12).
According to Johannes, Kaoem Telapak and London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) have uncovered some large-scale log smuggling cases that had occurred despite the ban.
In 2005, he said, 300,000 cubic meters of timber were smuggled from Papua to China every month. In 2010, customs officers at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta seized 23 containers of timber that was reportedly headed to China.
"Law enforcement in these two cases was unsuccessful, as the main perpetrators had not been arrested," Johanes said.
Independent Forest Monitoring Network (JPIK) activist Muhammad Kosar said that the lifting of the ban would also affect the local timber industry.
"We urge the government to make sure that wood supplies in the industry come from legal and sustainable sources. The government should not be strengthening the international forestry market, but the domestic one," he said.