Source : Jakarta Globe
June 08, 2011
By Camelia Pasandaran
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called on other countries to help preserve Indonesia’s forests by not becoming markets for illegally logged Indonesian timber.
“In short, there are a lot of fences out there,” the president, referring to dealers in stolen goods, said on Tuesday at a ceremony to hand out environmental awards.
“Whenever we sell timber, we take the heat for deforestation. Certainly there are violations everywhere, which is what we’re cracking down on, but the truth is that there are also fences outside the country.”
He stressed that in order to protect the country’s forests, it behooved other countries to cooperate in preventing illegal logging.
“If you want to do good, let’s work together to sort out the timber industry,” Yudhoyono said.
“Other countries should stop fencing illegally felled timber. That’s the kind of deal that we need to work on. That’s why it’s only fair if the world contributes [financially] to helping forest countries that want to preserve their resources.”
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan, speaking at the event, said the number of cases of illegal logging had increased in recent months. However, he declined to say which countries were suspected of receiving and selling illegal timber from Indonesia.
Industry watchers like Greenpeace have long speculated those countries are Malaysia, Singapore and China.
Zulkifli said Indonesia had recently signed an agreement with the European Union that was designed to identify and eventually exclude illegally logged timber products from EU markets in order to promote good forest governance in the exporting country.
Discussions on the agreement began in 2007 but only concluded in April this year.
“The rampant spread of illegal logging has prompted the government to campaign for legal certification for the timber trade,” Zulkifli said.
“For instance, the merbau tree is only found in Indonesia, so if there’s unlicensed merbau timber being traded, then it’s illegal. The trade must be stopped and the perpetrators prosecuted and jailed. That requires international cooperation. If it’s just us fighting to the death, then that’s not fair.”
The merbau tree, however, is not exclusive to Indonesia. It can be found in Southeast Asia, East Africa and Australia.
Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta said more needed to be done to stem illegal logging, given the difference between the rates of forest destruction and recovery.
“Forests in Indonesia are being destroyed at a rate of 700,000 hectares a year, while the rate of recovery and reforestation is only 500,000 hectares a year,” he said.
“This means we’re continuing to experience a net increase in forest destruction, which in turn leads to floods and mudslides that not only cause economic losses but loss of life.”
The calls for a crackdown on illegal logging came just weeks after Yudhoyono issued a much-criticized decree on a two-year moratorium.
The decree, issued more than five months after the moratorium was supposed to go into effect, has been widely lambasted by anti-logging activists as not doing enough to prevent the exploitation of forests for commercial purposes.