Tuesday, July 25, 2017

EU-standard forestry agreement to be set up

The Forest Law, Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) agreement is being drawn up to develop good forestry administration that supports the development of the state, safeguards the public’s economy and protects the natural resources of the forests.

A worker draws paint markings on wood logs being prepared for export. Photo - AFPA worker draws paint markings on wood logs being prepared for export. Photo - AFP

Forestry staff, relevant government personnel, environmental conservation groups and timber entrepreneurs met in Mandalay on February 15 for a workshop to discuss the processes involved in the Forest Law, Enforcement, Governance and Trade, Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT-VPA) between Myanmar and the European Union.

“Producing illegal timber can affect the natural environment and social economic matters. Cases of bribery and corruption can happen in the country,” said U Soe Hein, secretary of the Sein Soe group which is also partipating in the FLEGT-VPA.

“The State also loses yearly about K10 billion because of illegal timber production. The companies which are involved with illegal timber are also causing instability in the economy, threatening investments and bringing about unnecessary damages,” he said.

U Soe Hein said that because of the weakness in state laws, resident ethnics who are relying on the forests are not protected by the actions of certain parties who seize farmlands.

“Therefore, the FLEGT-VPA is needed as a guide to develop good forestry administration that supports the sharing of forestry resources,” he said.

Myanmar sent an official request to the EU to be a part of the FLEGT-VPA action plan in the preparation phase. The EU approved the request on March 2014, and the Inception Workshop on EU-Myanmar FLEGT- VPA Preparation Phase was held on January 2015.

Implementing the FLEGT- VPA action plan can give rise to beneficial effects -- a licensing system for endorsement of legally harvested timber, a tracking system to trace the timber supply chain, and improvements in forestry management.

The countries currently under the negotiation stage to implement the FLEGT- VPA action plan are the Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guyana, Honduras, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The countries under the implementation stage are Cameroon, Ghana, Indonesia, Liberia and Congo, but only Indonesia can issue FLEGT licenses.

“FLEGT is executed by the EU. The partner countries have to act according to Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA),” said U Kyaw Tun, an active participant of FLEGT.

“If Myanmar wants to export timber to the EU, we must abide by VPA procedures which can lead to a successful bilateral trade agreement.  As a result, a strong and secure forestry management control can be established, while giving a boost to legal trades of timber,” he said.

In 1975, Myanmar’s forest area was 61 percent of the land area. In 2010, it dropped to 47pc. In twenty years between 1990 and 2010, according to research reports, the total forest area decreased by 0.95pc average per year.

As pointed out by FLEGT-VPA activists, the main reasons for deforestation are illegal logging, and the illegal trades of timber and timber products.

Translation by Khine Thazin Han and Swe Zin Moe