The Jakarta Post
Despite initial setbacks, Indonesia is inching toward closing a deal with the European Union (EU) which will allow the country to be the world leader in timber legality.
The deal, if secured, will allow Indonesia to export its timber without following a time consuming legal process, if it carries a Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licence. FLEGT-licensed timber is considered by the EU to have been harvested legally.
'What we want to do is establish FLEGT as the global standard for timber legality and having Indonesia there as the first or one of the first countries [in the world] to do that establishes Indonesia as a world leader in timber legality,' said Colin Crooks, deputy head of the EU's Delegation to Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and ASEAN, on Wednesday.
He said that Indonesia had made rapid progress toward sealing the deal with the EU. At the moment, Ghana is the only country besides Indonesia at the point of nearly closing the deal, Crooks said.
'If you consider where Indonesia was 10, 15 years ago, [it] didn't have a good reputation. To get from there, to being a world leader in timber legality, is an astonishing achievement,' said Crooks. 'From what I understand, Indonesia has the most comprehensive and the best developed timber legality system [of any country] in Asia.'
He was referring to Indonesia's timber legality verification system (SVLK), the first national timber legality assurance system in the world to be implemented based on FLEGT principles.
The SVLK currently issues V-legal documents to verified legal timber. Before FLEGT licensing can begin, the EU and Indonesia must confirm that the SVLK is working as described in the Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement, which was ratified by both parties in 2014 and builds upon Indonesia's national efforts to address illegal logging.
Both parties have been monitoring the progress of the SVLK. During a meeting on Tuesday, the Joint Implementation Committee of the FLEGT said that it had found significant progress on the nationwide rollout of the SVLK to all sectors of the forestry industry, including small and medium-sized enterprises.
It has already certified more than 1,142 companies operating in the timber industry and more than 20 million hectares of forest.
More than 85 percent of timber harvested in natural forest concessions is certified and 100 percent of plantation forest concessions where timber harvesting takes place is certified.
Between January 2013 and June 2015, Indonesia issued more than 166,000 V-Legal documents to timber worth US$12.2 million.
However, some issues remain that could jeopardize the progress, including the concerns over access, or lack thereof, to information.
The Environment and Forestry Minister revealed that recent legal proceedings at the Central Information Commission (KIP), in which the ministry was being sued by Forest Watch Indonesia for refusing to release what the ministry deems to be confidential documents, had caused concern among EU members.
The Environment and Forestry Ministry's sustainable forest management director-general Ida Bagus Putera Parthama said the concerns had been properly addressed.
'The government and the independent monitoring agencies have met and have agreed upon which information should be disclosed,' he said on Wednesday.
Crooks said that open information was required by the Voluntary Partnership Agreement, and the reported lack of it was a concern.
He said, 'it is an issue in Europe because a lot of big selling points of the SVLK [relate to its] unique independent monitoring function.'