The government and a number of business associations have agreed to move forward with a plan to relax regulations on environmentally friendly certification for downstream products of timber, raising concerns that the changes would promote illegal logging.

The Trade Ministry’s director for exports of agriculture and forestry products, Nurlaila Nur Muhammad, said on Monday that a number of ministries and various timber-related business associations had agreed to the Trade Ministry’s proposal on the revision of timber export requirements.

“In the next one or two days, we’ll issue a ministerial regulation revising previous regulations on timber export requirements,” she told The Jakarta Post.

The Trade Ministry, the Environment and Forestry Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister and a number of business associations — such as the Indonesian Rattan Furniture and Craft Association (AMKRI) and the Indonesian Furniture Entrepreneurs Association (Asmindo) held a closed-door meeting at the Trade Ministry office on Monday to discuss the issue.

According to Nurlaila, parties in the meeting agreed to simplify procedures on ironwood exports and revoke requirements for timber legality verification system (SVLK) certification on 15 downstream products of timber, including furniture.

Nurlaila said that the revision aimed to help local timber producers export their products overseas.

The timber industry, especially small and medium furniture-makers and craft-producers, has pushed
for the SVLK certification to be optional, arguing that the requirement to obtain the certificates made it difficult for small and medium businesses to export their goods and thus it limited their access to the global market.

However, some have claimed that the SVLK actually provides Indonesian producers with greater access to the global market, as it guarantees buyers that wood and wood-based products are made in accordance with the law and are sourced in an environmentally friendly manner.

For instance, the EU, the destination for around 40 percent of Indonesian timber product exports, has been requesting timber exporting countries to apply environmentally friendly certification on their products, as demand for eco-friendly products from EU consumers has been on the rise.

The Indonesian government, which signed the voluntary partnership agreement on forest law enforcement (FLEGT-VPA) with the EU last year, was currently negotiating with the 28-member bloc to make Indonesian timber products exempt from due diligence. If the negotiation comes through, Indonesia will be the first country in the world to be exempted from the process, giving its timber products a huge advantage over products from other countries.

According to Zainuri Hasyim of the Indonesian Independent Forest Monitoring Network (JPIK), if the regulations are relaxed, all these efforts will be for nothing, and it will bring Indonesia back to the time when illegal logging was rampant,

“If this happens, then all the efforts to fix the image of Indonesia’s timber export all this time will be for nothing,” Zainuri said.

The planned relaxation of the regulation has already caused concerns in the EU, with a representative of the union demanding clarification on the matter, according to Multistakeholder Forestry Program (MFP) program director Smita Notosusanto.

MFP is a partnership program between the Indonesian government and the British government to support the reformation of forestry governance through SVKL.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry also lambasted the planned revision, saying that it constituted a major setback in the country’s attempts to combat rampant illegal logging.

“The Environment and Forestry Ministry’s stance is clear. The SVLK [should] still be implemented. It is a soft approach to stop the extraordinary crime of illegal logging that has robbed trillions of rupiah from this country and caused lots of trouble. Why are there Indonesians who don’t support the SVLK?” the ministry’s sustainable forest management director-general Ida Bagus Putera Parthama told the Post on Monday.

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