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Petition urges global timber certification body to uphold sustainability, indigenous rights in Sarawak

Indigenous communities from Gerenai in a protest - SAVE RIVERS

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While communities continue to express concern about the certificates granted, a petition with 6,629 signatures from around the world had called on the global body to step in, Save Rivers writes.

On 2 November, civil society groups handed a “Stop the Chop” petition, signed by 6,629 people from all over the world, to an international timber certification body in Geneva.

The petition requested the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) to withhold its endorsement of the new revised Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS) standard if the Malaysian Timber Certification Council continues to issue certificates to companies that disregard the input of indigenous communities.

The petition was brought to the PEFC in Geneva by the Bruno Manser Fund on 3 November as a direct handover was not possible because of the current coronavirus situation in Switzerland. Concurrently, affected communities from the Gerenai and Ravenscourt forest management units sent a protest message out.

The petition asks the PEFC to look into the flaws in the implementation of the MTCS on the ground in Sarawak such as the lack of transparency and of consultations with affected communities and the disregard for community-initiated forest conservation initiatives.

Communities insist that compliance with both national and international standards must be ensured before certificates can be issued.

Penan leader Komeok Joe said: “The MTCS standard guarantees communities the right to reject logging and to control their own forest management. But although we Penan have repeatedly expressed our will to protect our forest and set up blockades against logging companies entering our forest, some of our areas have been recently certified for logging under MTCS.

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“Neither the government nor the logging companies respect our rights. That is why now, we turn to the PEFC to enforce the rights guaranteed under the PEFC sustainability label. In the meantime, we will ensure there is no more MTCS-certified logging on the ground in our territories”

Peter Kallang, chairman of Save Rivers, voiced his expectations of the global body: “PEFC endorsed labels promise sustainable timber and adherence to international standards. Samling’s MTCS certificates for Ravenscourt and Gerenai, however, surely don’t live up to these international expectations and threaten the label’s reputation.

“So, it is time for the PEFC to take action by either solving the outstanding issues or respectively, revoking their support for MTCS. International consumers must realise that the PEFC can no longer guarantee the sustainability of MTCS labelled timber.”

This year, the Malaysian Timber Certification Council revised its MTCS standard, adapting it to the PEFC sustainable forest management standard from 2018.

With the endorsement pending, the PEFC started a public consultation on the MTCS.

Save Rivers, Keruan, Bruno Manser Fund and The Borneo Project submitted an in-depth report compiling all concerns raised by the communities within the Gerenai and Ravenscourt forest management units in Sarawak. Copies of the report were also sent to Malaysian accreditation body Sirim and the Malaysian Timber Certification Council, as well as to various foreign embassies in Kuala Lumpur.

The organisations expect the PEFC to resolve the identified shortcomings or alternatively to withhold their endorsement for the MTCS.

The report “Complaints from the ground regarding the implementation of the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS) in Sarawak, Malaysia” can be downloaded here.

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Read the “Stop the Chop” petition.

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