Forest greenery

Indonesia shelves plan to undermine legal timber exports under cover of coronavirus

The Government of Indonesia has backed away from a plan to drastically dilute timber regulations put in place to lock illegal wood out of its exports to the European Union and other markets.

A controversial Ministry of Trade regulation (Permendag No 15/2020, aka P15/2020) would have come into effect in just a few days’ time (27 May) and was touted as a way to stimulate the country’s economy, hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Timber factory saw mill, Indonesia (c) EIAimage

But an international outcry of governments, the private sector and civil society, led by EIA and our Indonesian partner Kaoem Telapak, has spurred the Government to think again and revoke P15/2020, which would have seriously undermined the credibility of the country’s legal timber supplies to important international markets.

Faith Doherty, EIA Forests Campaigns Leader, said: “The Government has done the right thing and effectively restated its commitment to preserving the nation’s precious forests instead of greenlighting a regulation seeking to pursue short-term profits.

“P15/2020 would have been a disaster for the country’s environment and for its international credibility.”

At its core, P15/2020 would have substantially weakened the Indonesian timber legality assurance system (SVLK) through large-scale deregulation, with the potential to re-incentivise illegal logging and illicit trade.

It would have removed a requirement for companies to obtain special licences attesting legality – called V-Legal Documents – for timber products from the point of processing to export.

Instead, a new regulation (Permendag 45/2020, aka P45/2020) renders P15/2020 invalid and re-instates previous legislation.

Abu Meridian, Executive Director of Kaoem Telapak, said: “Indonesia is a global pioneer in timber sector reform, having previously been dominated by illegal practices.

“This success was recognised by the European Union through its timber trade treaty with Indonesia, a Voluntary Partnership Agreement under the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade initiative, and the new P45 regulation preserves this deal, protects it from being undermined and clearly demonstrates that it should not be disregarded lightly as an economic asset in itself.