In February 2020, the Indonesian Trade Minister, Agus Suparmanto, signed ministerial regulation No. 15/2020 regarding provisions on the export of industrial forestry products. The new regulation revokes former ministerial regulation No. 84/2016, and with it the legal requirement to verify any timber for export through a verification certificate (V-legal) which proves that the wood was not logged illegally. It will enter into force on 27 May 2020. The trade ministry intends to simplify the verification process for small-scale and middle-size timber producers in order to increase the timber export. This change in policy will have a strong impact on regions that are home to the last primary rain forests in Indonesia, like West Papua. Environmental groups fear that the regulation will accelerate illegal logging and timber trade.
Illegal timber logging is a widespread problem in West Papua. The provinces of Papua and Papua Barat are among the last areas in Indonesia which are covered to a large extend with primary rain forests. Both provinces have one of the lowest population densities in the entire archipelago, making the region interesting for large scale agricultural projects and extractive industries like logging and mining. The tropical hardwood promises high revenues for logging companies that ship the timber to Jakarta, from where it reaches the international market.
The Indonesian Government had tried hard to set up a Timber Legality Verification System (Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu, abbreviated as SVLK) in 2003. The European Union finally recognized the SLVK after the system got the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade license (FLEGT) as a reliable foundation for Indonesia’s participation in the international timber trade. Prior to the establishment, buyers from Europe often refused Indonesian timber because they feared the wood was logged illegally. The revocation of the verification certificate as a legal requirement for timber export violates the FLEGT principles and may result in an embargo by the European Union against Indonesia.
Environmental groups in Indonesia argue that the new ministerial regulation contradicts Law No 18/2013 on the prevention and eradication of forest destruction, which obliges the Government to prevent the trade and the laundering of illegal timber. They fear that the new regulation will widen already-existing loopholes in Indonesia’s timber verification system and increase the production of illegal timber.