KUCHING: Sarawak PKR vice-chairman See Chee How says the state government is not interested in the (European Union) EU-initiated Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) because of high demand from Asian countries.
The major importers of the state’s timber are Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore which are not bound by VPA.
Under VPA the sources of timber would be identified thus help curb illegal logging.
The VPA and also another initiative called the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) are in the last negotiation stages in Peninsular Malaysia, he said.
See was a speaker in the EU-funded land, justice and human rights-forum which was jointly organised here last Friday by Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia), Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), with the participation of Aidenvironment from Indonesia.
With the state opting not to sign the VPA, its timber will not be legally allowed into the markets of EU’s 28 member countries, said See.
Ambassador and head of the EU delegation to Malaysia, Luc Vandebon, also spoke at a forum entitled ‘Land, Justice and Human Rights: The Situation of the Indigenous Peoples in Sarawak’.
According to See, Vandebon was hoping that talks be extended to Sarawak next year.
The FLEGT and VPA could help prevent illegal activities attributable to logging and oil palm industries in developing countries, See who is also Batu Lintang assemblyman, said.
He said he believed the certification programme under VPA could contribute to certified timber fetching higher prices than uncertified ones.
The FLEGT VPA was initiated in 2006, with the EU engaging Malaysia in 2007 and it was aimed at mandating as traceable sources or origins of timber exported to the EU.
In June this year Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) chairman Datuk Dr Freezailah Che Yom told The Borneo Post that Malaysia was taking steps to develop the timber legality assurance system to ensure the legality of logs harvested from forests as well as that of uncertified permanent reserved forests, hence strengthening the country’s sustainable forests management.
Malaysia is supportive of the EU’s initiative to implement the FLEGT Action plan to tackle illegal logging through VPAs and that they are negotiating with the EU to conclude the FLEGT to ensure all our exported timber products are legal.
“Under the VPAs, Malaysia agrees to implement a Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) to verify that timber products for shipment to EU are legally produced,” he pointed out then.
He said TLAS was based on the definition of legality – which is “timber harvested by a licensee from approved areas and timber products exported in accordance with the laws, regulations and procedures pertaining to forestry, timber industry and trade of Malaysia.”
TLAS development is also based on existing laws and regulations governing forest harvesting, mill processing and trade of timber and the current licensing system on these activities.
TLAS comprises six agreed principles and its associated criteria which are formatted into 24 tables to facilitate compliance auditing by third party monitor.
The planning for TLAS implementation will be phased from planted forests in peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and eventually Sarawak.
“Under the VPA, once the TLAS is fully operational, all timber products exported to the EU will be accompanied by a FLEGT Licence,” he said adding that this could potentially enhance international timber trade between Malaysia and European countries as well as create a generic legal system to combat illegal logging, hence sustaining the overall timber industry.