Representatives from eight member states of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) shared their achievements in developing reliable timber legality assurance systems at a workshop in Jakarta, Indonesia from 6-8 December 2016.
Indonesia shared its success in becoming, in November, the world’s first country to issue FLEGT licences through a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU.
An open, transparent process and trust-building through dialogue were both crucial to the VPA’s multi-stakeholder approach, said Mardi Minangsari, of Indonesia’s Independent Forestry Monitoring Network, who has tracked the process as a civil society representative for 15 years.
Vietnam, meanwhile, is expected to sign its VPA with the EU in March 2017, having begun negotiations in 2010. The country is a major hub for the global timber trade, importing wood from more than 80 other countries for processing and re-export.
How to incorporate the legality of imported wood was “one of the most important topics that took up a lot of negotiation time,” said Huynh Van Hanh, standing vice-chair of the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association in Vietnam who gave a presentation on behalf of the Vietnamese delegation.
Thailand, another major timber importer and processor in the region, reported that it would begin field tests of its timber legality definition in 2017.
Banjong Wongsrisoontorn, Director of the Forest Certification Office in Thailand’s Royal Forest Department informed the workshop that Thailand had submitted its draft VPA annexes on legality definition, product scope and supply chain control to the EU in 2016.
Laos is also finalising its legality definition and is hoping to conclude VPA negotiations with the EU in 2018.
Although the Philippines is not currently engaged in a VPA process, it is upgrading its timber legality assurance system to comply with the ASEAN Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management.
“What we have in the Philippines now is a ‘one-way traffic’: once the logs are processed into lumber we cannot trace it back to the forest of origin,” said Raul M Briz, chief of the Forest Protection Section in the Forest Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “We hope to achieve 100% ‘back to stump’ traceability for our wood production.”
He added that the new timber legality assurance system would be subjected to a nationwide multi-stakeholder consultation before it is implemented.
Other topics discussed during the workshop include civil society’s role in developing timber legality assurance systems, the empowerment of small and medium forest enterprises, and control of imports into ASEAN countries.
About 80 participants from governments, private sector, civil society and observers from the EU delegations in the region attended this fifth sub-regional training workshop on timber legality assurance systems.
It was co-organised by the ASEAN Secretariat, the EU FLEGT Facility hosted by the European Forest Institute, and Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, with support from GIZ.
Cover image: Participants share their experience on combating illegal timber trade. Credit: FLEGT