Friday, 13 August 2010

Tales Timber Traders Tell about Papua's Log Controls

The traders who admit (in EIA and Telapak's latest film and report, "Rogue Traders") smuggling large volumes of merbau wood out of Papua and Indonesia give some valuable insight into the realities of the timber trade in Papua. Three major lessons include:
  • Papua province's log shipment controls are not being implemented;
  • Criminal traders bribe the military to act as security when buying logs to be shipped out of Papua;
  • Forestry, customs and other officials in Makassar, including members of the security apparatus must be systematically bribed with $15,000 for each barge of logs arriving from Papua province.

The report details how Hengky Gosal of UD Menara Mas and PT Nessa Golden Wood, and his brother Alex Tungadi of PT Rajawali Makmur Sejahtera, who EIA/Telapak met as timber buyers in Makassar in May 2010, both said they regularly buy logs from the concession of PT Mamberamo Alasmandiri in Papua province. Tungadi also reportedly told the EIA/Telapak investigators that he had bought 8,000 M3 of logs from PT Mamberamo Alasmandiri in August 2009. Both Tungadi and Gosal claimed to pay soldiers and the police $300 a day to acts as security for them when selecting logs to be shipped out of the region, and Tungadi claimed he he paid officials in Makassar $15,000 for each shipment he receives at the port.

Yet under Governor Suebu's leadership, no logs from Papua province are supposed to be shipped out of the province. So how are they getting there? Is this what all those payments to officials, police and military are about?

Well, the report also highlights that, despite no official change of policy announced by Governor Suebu, officials in Papua have, since June 2009, issued transport permits to other provinces for over 100,000 M3 of logs (Rogue Traders, page 5). The report also highlights how Papua's log shipment controls are not respected in the timber industry raw material usage-planning process, citing analysis of RPBBI documents that indicate substantial expected supplies of logs from Papua to other provinces outside of Papua since 2008, when the log controls were supposed to have come into effect.

So what is going on? Have officials in Papua given up on the log shipment ban altogether? Apparently not.

The report also reveals that while round logs are clearly being shipped out of PT Mamberamo Alasmandiri - with military and official support having been purchased - they are not doing so within the law. EIA/Telapak cite a  major log seizure by police in June 2010 at the logging concession of PT Mamberamo Alasmandiri's business partner, PT Sinar Wijaya Plywood Industry, in Yapen, Papua. This clearly indicates that logs that were getting out of the region to Hengky Gosal's and other mills, are not doing so within the terms of the law. Papua Forest Eye has since discovered that even Governor Suebu's spokesperson, Matthias Rafra, called for an investigation into PT Mamberamo Alasmandiri - indicating that the Governor is not impressed.

But wait a minute!

PT Mamberamo Alasmandiri, Indonesia's biggest logging concession, is certified as "Verified Legal Origin" by SGS, a company who's motto is "When You Need to BE Sure" - so how can there be criminal activity in the area? A good question indeed, and one that SGS will need to look at.

SGS is an international auditing company which runs forestry monitoring services under its TLTV (Timber Legality and Traceability Verification) program. SGS also has the contract to audit log exports from Papua New Guinea, where the government - unlike in Indonesia or Papua province - is still happy to ship its natural resource wealth to Chinese factories rather than use it to build the economy and employment base in PNG. SGS clearly likes getting contracts for rubber-stamping logs exports from New Guinea, the world's third most significant remaining forest area.


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