The Ministry of Agriculture is considering lifting a two-year ban on the transport of old logs, said forestry, donor and NGO officials Wednesday, despite long-standing opposition from donors and environmentalists.
The Forestry Administration is formulating a procedure to allow logging companies that had paid royalties to the government for timber—cut before Prime Minister Hun Sen banned logging at the end of 2001—to finally move it, said Forestry Administration deputy director Chea Sam Ang and public affairs official Than Sarath.
“A couple of weeks ago, the Minister [of Agriculture] called a meeting to solve the problem of forest companies that have paid log royalty money to the government but cannot yet move the logs,” Than Sarath said, though he emphasized that transporting logs of any age remains illegal for the time being.
Hun Sen imposed a ban on the transport of old logs in 2002 in response to donor pressure because freshly cut timber was being passed off as old logs. Lifting the ban has been proposed several times since, but now seems to be gaining momentum.
Societe Generale de Surveillance, the independent monitor, has prepared a proposal to monitor log transport, said Robert Tennent, SGS project manager.
Aside from distinguishing which logs are old logs, it has been difficult in the past to verify what royalties were actually paid, said Mike Davis of forestry watchdog Global Witness, the former independent forestry monitor.
A member of the donor Working Group on Natural Resource Management said donors also oppose lifting the ban.