Petition calls on international timber certification body to uphold sustainability and indigenous rights in Sarawak

While communities continue to express concern about certificates granted under the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme, a petition with 6,629 signatures from around the world now calls on the international certification body PEFC to step in.

(Miri, Malaysia/Geneva, Switzerland) Yesterday, civil society groups handed the petition “Stop the Chop” over to the international timber certification body PEFC in Geneva. 6,629 people from all over the world request the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) to withhold their endorsement of the new revised Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme standard if MTCC continues to issue certificates to companies that disregard the input of indigenous communities.

The petition “Stop the Chop” was brought to the PEFC in Geneva by the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) today - as a direct handover was not possible because of the current COVID19 situation in Switzerland. Concurrently, affected communities from Gerenai FMU and Ravenscourt FMU sent a protest message out. The petition asks the PEFC to look into the flaws in 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 stated: “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. 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 PEFC: “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 realize that the PEFC can no longer guarantee the sustainability of MTCS labeled timber.”

This year, the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) 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 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 (FMU) in Sarawak. Copies of the report were also sent to Malaysian accreditation body SIRIM and MTCC, as well as various foreign embassies in Kuala Lumpur. The organisations expect the PEFC to resolve the identified shortcomings or alternatively to withhold their endorsement for MTCS.

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