The Government of Lao PDR, accompanied by the Lao wood processing industry, has highlighted its recent work on the innovative tool “Forestry Legality Compendium” for working towards improved forest governance in Laos, during the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week between 22 and 26 February 2016 in the Philippines, one of the largest and most important forestry events in the region.
One of the concrete outputs that have been achieved and highlighted during the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week, by Mr. Sousath Sayakoummane, Director General of Department of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, is the Forestry Legality Compendium. “The Forestry Legality Compendium is a comprehensive review of the legal framework for the forestry sector in Laos along the supply chain of timber products – starting from forest land classification, demarcation, inventory, quota approval, management and harvesting, transport, processing and export,” he said. “This work will assist elaboration of the Timber Legality Definition, which is a core part of the FLEGT VPA (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade / Voluntary Partnership Agreement), which the Lao Government is currently embarking on”, he added.
Mr. Thongsavanh Soulignamat, the President of the Lao Wood Processing Industry Association particularly for Finished Wood Products, stressed during his presentation at the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week that “the Government of Lao PDR has always recognised the private sector as the main actor to develop the wood processing industry and play an important role in the FLEGT/VPA Process, which is the initiative to ensure sufficient legal timber supply for industries, improved forest governance and sustainable forest management in Laos”.
During the conference, the delegation from Lao PDR has also reported significant increase in forest cover between 2010 and 2015 due to considerable progress in slowing down the rate of deforestation and restoring forests, especially on previously deforested lands, while emphasising the adoption of participatory approaches, enhancing the flow of ecosystem services and integrating livelihood benefits in forest restoration.
“Lao PDR is working towards strengthening forest governance in the country,” said Mr. Khamphout Phandanouvong, Director General of Department of Forest Inspection, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. “The FLEGT VPA is a main avenue contributing to this. Good governance of the forest sector will allow us to maintain our forests for future generations, further develop opportunities for wood processing in the country, add value to our products, create employment opportunities in the forest sector and open a wider range of export markets. Once the FLEGT VPA is fully operational, timber products from Lao PDR will be in full compliance with the EU Timber Regulation which promotes placement of legal timber on the EU market and its trading partners’. Lao companies will also gain easier access to other markets such as ASEAN, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Japan,” he added.
Held every 4-year, the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week is one of the largest and most important forestry platforms in the region, which brings over thousands of government and forestry and natural resources officials, and a range of stakeholders representing policy makers, practitioners, academic and research institutions, non-government organisations (NGOs) and the private sector from over 30 countries, to review the latest developments in international forest trade and markets, and to address issues relating to the trends and future of the global trade and markets in the context of sustainable forest trade and pathways to timber legality and prosperity of the region.
As part of the Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) to combat illegal logging globally, the European Union (EU) is concluding Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) with timber producing countries. A VPA is an international trade agreement to reduce illegal wood harvesting and promote legal timber trade.
Laos has started to negotiate such an agreement with the EU, with assistance from the GIZ project Support to the Lao EU-FLEGT process (ProFLEGT).
ProFLEGT is a joint initiative of the Lao Government and the German Development Cooperation. It is working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (through the FLEGT Standing Office under the supervision of the Department of Forest Inspection, DOFI), Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, as well as other Government agencies, civil society organisations, academia and timber processing industry.
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