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Myanmar timber industry faces challenges in the voluntary partnership agreement process in forest governance

31 Jul 2017

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The lack of transparency and accountability together with the issues of corruption, an overwhelming wood demand and land rights are still posing challenges for the Myanmar timber industry’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement in forest governance, said U Kyaw Zwar, director of the Forest Department. He made the remarks during a workshop on July 25.

“The government has concerns and the fact that is does not have the trust of multiple stakeholders is a challenge for the process.

“Every change implies sacrificing the interests of certain people, or things, for a certain time but it will be a benefit in the long run, resulting in a sustainable enterprise,” he said.

On November 25, last year, Myanmar started the preparatory work to eventually join the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT).

Joining the FLEGT process would mean greater transparency across the length of the supply chain, from logging to export. It would include independent monitoring by civil society groups and the community itself to guarantee that the wood was legal, said U Myo Min, consultant of Myanmar Forest Products Merchants Federation (MFPMF).

Myanmar held FLEGT-VPA legal introductions in all states and regions. July 25 was the last day of legal introduction.

Salai Cung Lian Thawng, strategic adviser of Pyoe Pin Programme, said the issues arose in every state. Regions are concerned about a possible legal requirement to supply timber for domestic consumption. The lack of transparency is also another major worry.

“If you want to fight illegal logging in Myanmar, it needs to have a legal (legitimate) supply channel. Illegal logging is for need and greed.

“If you fulfil the need for local demand, it can reduce illegal logging to a certain extent. For greed, it is up to the government to stop corruption along illegal routes, as timber is not drug which can be carried in a pocket,” he said.

U Sein Win, president of the MFPMF, said that Myanmar needs to halt exporting wood in logs for a certain period, as it is not worth the suffering for the sake of export revenues.

“The previous forest governance failed to generate a profit from exporting timber and it resulted in deforestation and severe climate change.

“If we were extracting only for local consumption, those side effects in the environment wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

The Myanma Timber Enterprise (MTE) is a state-owned enterprise responsible for the cutting and export of timber in Myanmar, and according to the 1992 Forest Law, teak or any other hard wood extracted by the MTE is legal.

U Khin Maung Kyi, deputy general manager at the SOE said that with the harvesting permission from the forest department, MTE is extracting wood as well as being in the process of securing a FLEGT plan. The MTE is committed to becoming transparent.

U Khin Maung Kyi said the MTE is transparent enough as it has declared how many tonnes of wood will be extracted in this fiscal year and from which states and regions. The MTE is going to extract 50 percent of the Annual Allowable Cut of Teak and 33pc of hard wood for this fiscal year.

The MTE has extracted 80,000 tonnes of teak and 200,000 tonnes of hardwood. After suspending their operations for a year, the organisation plans to extract 15,000 tonnes of teak and 350,000 tonnes of hardwood in fiscal year 2017-18, according to extraction statistics from the SOE.