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Efforts to Address Illegal Logging Issue Essay

The Malaysian government’s response to illegal logs in the country has been to implement log-tracking systems, to ban log imports from Indonesia and to increase law enforcement activities. The State Forestry Departments have been setting up State Security and Protection Units within their organizations. They have also asked for assistance from the police and military to curb illegal activities. Punishment for illegal logging or importing banned timber can be quite severe.

For example, penalties for cases that go to court in Sarawak can result in payments of up to ten times the value of seized timber, plus a US$15,000 fine, plus a jail sentence of up to five years. Numerous offenses have been prosecuted. For example, in Peninsular Malaysia, some 324 forestry offenses were recorded involving illegal logging, improper logging licensees, felling immature trees and encroachments. However, environmental NGOs claim that there are many more violations that are undetected.

The Malaysian government views the management of its forests as within the purview of its own sovereignty. Government and industry officials are confident that little illegal forest activity occurs in Malaysia and that its enforcement mechanisms are highly effective. When the illegal logging issue recently arose in the context of negotiations toward an economic partnership agreement with Japan, Malaysian representatives were adamant that matters of illegal logging are strictly dealt with. On concerns about Malaysian imports from Indonesia, they contended that imports from Indonesia carry the relevant certificates. The Japanese negotiators indicated that proof of legality for Malaysian wood products entering Japan would be a prerequisite to furthering negotiations on the economic agreement.

Unlike any other Asian country, Malaysia has had a fairly comprehensive log tracking system for several years, which has limited the ability of manufacturing plants to purchase and consume logs from unspecified sources. On the Peninsula, every cut tree on PFE land is tracked from the stump to the processing plant. The stump is left with a plastic tag which includes an I.D. number corresponding to the tags on all the logs cut from the individual tree. Before the logs leave the forest, an officer checks the tag numbers in the “Tree Tagging and Timber Production Control Book”. The logging company needs to fill in a “Forest Harvesting Control and Monitoring Form” for each stand to be checked regularly by a state official. Each month, the Forest Range Officer in charge completes a “Monthly Forest Harvesting Process Report” to ensure the licensee only harvests trees according to the permit.

See EIA/Telepak. “Profiting from Plunder: How Malaysia Smuggles Endangered Wood.” 2004. and The Star Online. “Big Seizure of Illegal Logs in National Park.” 2003. 52
EIA. “Environmentalists Accuse Singapore of Illegal Trade in Endangered Timber and Harmful Chemicals at UN Conference; US Sanctions Possible as Trade Threatens Biodiversity, Human Health.” 2004. 53

“Environmental and social NGOs reject the Malaysian Timber Certification Council’s Scheme” 54
Nikkan Mojkuzai Shimbun. “Japan Concerned About Illegal Logging, Japan-Malaysia FTA Negotiations Forest Products for a Subcommittee.” July 23, 2004.
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