Forestry officials dismiss WWF report about illegal logging
Lao forestry officials dismissed a recent WWF report which exaggerated the scenario of illegal logging in Laos, a senior official in charge at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has confirmed.
Deputy Director General of the Department of Forest Inspection under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Linthong Douangphachanh told Vientiane Times yesterday that his department has read the leaked WWF report and argued that the figure about illegal forest harvesting was inaccurate.
“They (the WWF) have never contacted our department for information about the exact value of our wood exports to China and Vietnam and I wonder how they can know about the value of wood exports,” he said.
Mr Linthong said the Lao government mainly sells timber to both Lao and Chinese companies who play the role of exporting the wood. The government uses these figures as the value of their exports.
He said the dollar figures of the wood values quoted by WWF at the borders are not comparable with the sales receipts issued by Lao authorities because the purchasers may have included freight costs, weigh bridge charges, any processing and other associated costs or taxes to the value they declared at the borders.
“Let's say we sell one cubic metre of wood at US$900 to a Chinese company. They may declare three or four folds at the border to Chinese authorities who use it as the basis of figures for wood imports from Laos to China,” Mr Linthong said.
However Lao authorities will further investigate the scenario to further explain why the figures do not match, he added.
Meanwhile online publication, The Ecologist quoted the WWF report as saying that Laos exported 1.4 million cubic metres of timber to Vietnam and China in 2013.
“That's more than 10 times the official timber harvest in Laos,” it summarised the report, concluding that therefore “Over 90 percent of logging in Laos is illegal.”
The Ecologist also stated that last year China imported US$1 billion worth of timber from Laos, up from US$45 million in 2008. Vietnam is the sixth largest wood-product exporter in the world, but imports 80 percent of the timber used by its wood processing industry.
The majority of the logging operations in Laos are connected to forest clearance for infrastructure projects including hydropower projects, road construction, mining and agricultural plantations, for example. But illegal logging could take place if no concrete measures are imposed to inspect these activities.
Perhaps authorities may agree that there is illegal logging but its scenario may not be as severe as stated by the WWF report.
Early this month, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry was responding to the questions of villagers in Saravan province who called to the National Assembly hotline about deforestation in Toumlan district.
The authorities acknowledged that illegal logging is reportedly widespread in Saravan province despite inspections being carried out by the local authorities.
By Times Reporters
(Latest Update October 30, 2015)