We refer to the letter headlined, ‘Rampant deforestation in Kedah needs to stop’ published in Malaysiakini on July 5, 2016.
The Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) views the issues raised in the letter seriously.
Established as an independent organisation in 1998, MTCC is tasked to develop and operate the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS) to provide independent assessment of forest management practices and audit of timber product manufacturers or exporters to ascertain that the timber products manufactured or exported from Malaysia are sourced from sustainably managed forests.
MTCC would like to emphasise that the MTCS is a voluntary certification system in line with international forest sustainability benchmarks, which strictly separates the processes of standard setting, certification and accreditation. Auditing and certification of compliance are not carried out by MTCC, but by independent certification bodies, such as Sirim QAS International Sdn. Bhd., which are accredited by Standards Malaysia accordance with ISO requirements.
A certified forest management area or timber company will be subjected to annual audit by the certification body to ensure continued compliance to the certification standards and requirements. Concerns raised by stakeholders will be taken into account by the certification body during the annual audit, and under certain circumstances, a special verification audit will be conducted, when deemed necessary.
In accordance with the requirements of the certification scheme, the certification body will undertake appropriate action in the event of a major non-compliance discovered during any audit. A case in point to demonstrate the credibility of the certification system would be the recent suspension of certification of the Johor and Kelantan forest management units.
With regard to the issues raised in the letter, please be assured that actions are being taken by Sirim QAS to look into these matters. In this context, MTCC greatly appreciates that any concerns regarding any certified entity be conveyed directly to MTCC or the certification body. MTCC wishes to stress that any information submitted to MTCC or the certification body will be treated seriously and that action will be taken as appropriate.
The MTCS underpins a balanced approach in the way the forests are utilised through strict criteria that aim to take into account the need for conservation, environmental protection and socio-economic development.
However, as certification is a voluntary process, the uptake has been slow. Currently, only 3.88 million ha of natural forests covering about 21 percent of the total forested areas in Malaysia have been certified under the MTCS. This statistic affirms that the implementation of forest certification is most challenging in spite of the best efforts.
The pursuit of sustainable forest management and forest certification is a challenging journey that requires the full cooperation and support of all parties involved. We need to work together to ensure that the valuable forest resources that we have are managed in a way that is socially acceptable, ecologically sustainable and economically viable.
YONG TENG KOON is chief executive officer, Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC).