A villager cuts timber illegally at a forest in Aceh province in this April 25, 2007 file photo. The Environmental Investigation Agency has urged President Joko Widodo to maintain Indonesia's commitment to a process that seeks to ensure that only legal timber products leave the archipelago.(Reuters Photo/Tarmizy Harva)

EIA Asks Indonesia to Stay the Course With EU Legal Timber System

APRIL 19, 2016

Jakarta. The Environmental Investigation Agency has urged President Joko Widodo to maintain Indonesia's commitment to a process that seeks to ensure that only legal timber products leave the archipelago.

The nongovernmental organization released a statement on Tuesday (19/04) – while Joko met with UK Prime Minister David Cameron on his business-focused European tour –  highlighting that in 1999, the UK and Washington DC-based agency led the way in exposing massive illegal logging in Indonesia's rainforests.

"At that time, it was estimated that as much as 80 percent of [Indonesia's] timber entering trade was illegal," the EIA said in the statement.

The EIA campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal logging, hazardous waste, endangered wildlife trade and the sale of climate and ozone-damaging chemicals.

It added that the European Union established in 2003 the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (Flegt) action plan, which refers to a series of measures that aim to ban illegal timber from entering EU markets.

The measures also seek to address the root causes for illegal logging in a country, including a lack of transparency, poor governance, rampant corruption and poor accountability from those responsible for managing forests.

"Key to the Flegt plan are voluntary partnership agreements, bilateral trade deals negotiated between a timber producer country and the EU to ensure only legal timber finds its way to the marketplace," the EIA's statement said.

'Months Away'

The EIA also advised Indonesia to ensure "full implementation" of the Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS), which seeks to verify all timber sources from the archipelago, particularly that which account for the bulk of the country's production.

"Over the coming months, Indonesia still has some work to do on issues of transparency, which we urge the Indonesian government to address with the same extraordinary commitment it has shown in combating illegal logging and the associated illegal trade from Indonesia," EIA Forest Campaign team leader Faith Doherty said in the statement.

She said after more than a decade of negotiations, Indonesia is likely just "months away" from seeing the first Flegt- approved timber.

Doherty said that while Indonesia has a lot of homework to do, the Flegt process will help ensure that forest crime can be addressed "effectively."

"The president's statement last week confirming that there will be a moratorium on oil palm and mining permits, together with an audit of current permits, is a positive step in the right direction and if implemented properly, will also stem the conversion of natural forests to oil palm plantations and tackle illegality within the sector," she said.

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