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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 28) – The Papua New Guinea Forest Industries Association (FIA), the entity representing the timber industry in Papua New Guinea announced yesterday that it was working with the Swiss-based company, SGS (the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company), to assist its members join the SGS Timber Legality and Traceability Verification (TLTV) program that SGS offers to the sector world-wide.

TLTV is an independent verification service designed by SGS to ensure that timber has been legally acquired/produced and sold by a particular forestry company. The legally verified timber is traced and verified throughout the supply chain.

Tony Honey, president of the Papua New Guinea FIA, said the association strongly opposed illegal logging in Papua New Guinea and that all timber exports by members of the association were legal.

"This system would provide independent verification of that fact to importers and challenge timber producers not in the association to follow suit," Mr. Honey said.

Under the system, SGS will undertake audits of log and timber production and tracking systems to check for legal and regulatory compliance. Such audits will use evidence from both documentary and field checks.

"Through this process, we hope to be able to constructively engage with the key stakeholders, including civil society, commercial business organizations and NGOs on the future of Papua New Guinea’s forest industry," Mr. Honey said.

Bruce Telfer, the Asia/Pacific manager for the SGS Forestry Monitoring Programming said SGS had already implemented voluntary legal validation systems for the forest industry in a number of countries including Congo, Cameroon, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Russian Far East.

Mr. Telfer said that SGS was familiar with the forest industry of Papua New Guinea due to its contract operations for the Papua New Guinea Government. Under this agreement SGS is monitoring all log exports from Papua New Guinea to ensure that all exports are correctly declared in terms of volume and revenue, and that all taxes have been paid as required by Papua New Guinea law.

Mr. Honey said the association would trial the SGS TLTV system for 12 months to assess costs and effectiveness with timber importers in Papua New Guinea’s major export markets, which are Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

This move was immediately welcomed by the Australian Timber Importers Federation.

David Eldridge, director of the federation, said Australian timber importers believed most timber imported from Papua New Guinea was legal, despite claims by Greenpeace that it was not.

"The decision by the Papua New Guinea timber industry to develop a system, which demonstrated that Papua New Guinea timber exports were legal, would give the assurance to importers and consumers of timber from Papua New Guinea that it is harvested in full accordance with Papua New Guinea laws," he said.

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