Illegal palm oil concession generates flood of timber, greenwashed by Indonesia’s flagship certification scheme

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Timber from illegal palm oil concessions has been certified as ‘legal’ under Indonesia’s state forestry certification scheme, according to a new report from two NGOs.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Independent Forest Monitoring Network (known by its Indonesian acronym, JPIK) revisited an oil palm concession previously exposed in a 2014 report, which found the company – PT Prasetya Mitra Muda – had begun clearing forest without all the legally required permits.

Since then the company has continued operating illegally, by clearing after permits expired and beyond the boundaries of its concession. Repeated attempts by JPIK to encourage Indonesian authorities to take action have gone unheeded.

In the meantime, sawmills have proliferated around the concession to take advantage of a vast supply of illegal timber. The plantation and some of the sawmills have now been certified as operating legally under the Timber Legality Verification System (Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu, or SVLK).

The SVLK is intended to ensure timber is produced and traded legally, and is a cornerstone of the Indonesian government’s efforts to repair the reputation of its forestry sector, which has been plagued by crime and corruption for decades. It also underpins the EU-Indonesia Voluntary Partnership Agreement, which removes the burden on European importers of Indonesian timber to carry out substantial due diligence.

“Repeated complaints submitted by JPIK and EIA to the authorities have not stopped PT PMM’s illegal activities. While the police have failed to enforce the law, more forests are being cleared illegally,” said Dhio Teguh Ferdyan, a JPIK Campaigner, in a statement.

“Compounding this impunity, dodgy auditors have failed to conduct due diligence on their clients and have certified these crimes as legal. Serious weaknesses in complaint handling within the SVLK system has also prevented accountability.”

EIA and JPIK have urged the government to investigate logging permits and non-compliance with the SVLK.