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Indonesia steps back from undermining legal timber exports under cover of the coronavirus

LONDON: The Government of Indonesia has shelved 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), touted as a means to stimulate an economy hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

But an international outcry of governments, the private sector and civil society, led by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and its Indonesian partner Kaoem Telapak, has spurred the Government to rethink the move 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.

P15/2020 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.”

In safeguarding existing standards, Indonesia has effectively reinforced its commitment to fight illegal logging and deforestation, defying a current global trend of environmental deregulation – often concealed as an economic stimulus in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.



* Thomas Chung (EIA) via thomaschung[at]

* Abu Meridian (Kaoem Telapak), via abu.meridian[at]



  1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses. Our undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants, pangolins and tigers, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops such as palm oil; we work to safeguard global marine ecosystems by tackling plastic pollution, exposing illegal fishing and seeking an end to all whaling; and we address the threat of global warming by campaigning to curtail powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases and exposing related criminal trade.
  2. Indonesia and the EU have signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) under the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade action plan (FLEGT). FLEGT aims to reduce illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance and promoting trade in legally produced timber.
  3. The backbone of a VPA is a national Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) which, in the case of Indonesia, is called SVLK. Under SVLK, V-Legal Documents are the verifier for legally harvested timber. This means that V-Legal timber qualifies for a FLEGT export/import licence in compliance with EU law under the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR).
  4. During the past two decades, EIA and Kaoem Telapak have been heavily involved in exposing illegal timber theft and trafficking and publishing reports on illegal logging of Merbau in Papua and West Papua such as Labora Sitorus (2013), Rogue Traders (2009) and The Last Frontier (2005).
  5. Indonesian products that are SVLK-licensed or certified provided the biggest profit in the import of EU tropical wood products in 2019 and saw Indonesia ranked first in the EU. FLEGT Independent Market Monitoring (FLEGTIMM) data for 2019 can be downloaded at


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