In a press briefing held on March 21, 2019 in Kinshasa, the Federation of Wood Industrialists (FIB), through its president Gabriel Mola Motya, responded to the allegations made by Global Witness on certain media including Radio France International (RFI) and in his report incriminating his member IFCO, published on his website.
The Federation of Woodworkers – FIB followed with amazement the Global Witness campaigner Mr. Colin Robertson interviewed on the radio station RFI on a report by Global Witness. The latter made defamatory remarks about our member IFCO.
The Federation of Wood Industrials (FIB) strongly condemns the statements made by Mr. Colin Robertson on the radio channel RFI and the allegations contained in this document, and wishes to point out that its member, Industrie Forestière du Congo (IFCO) has scrupulously complied with the requirements for business creation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, that it has legally acquired its forest concessions and that it works legally and in close collaboration with the administrations established in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
By this document, the Federation of Wood Industrials (FIB) expresses its dismay at the allegations made, brings here elements of clarification that Global Witness intentionally ignored during its communication on the radio channel RFI and in its report which seems to be harmful.»
1. About IFCO and its predecessors on the 09/18 Baulu concession
Global Witness acknowledges in its report that our member, IFCO acquired its concessions in the DRC in January 2018 under the supervision of the Ministry in charge of Environment and Sustainable Development (p.6).
In the same report, Global Witness accuses the company IFCO created in 2018 of having exploited outside the limits of an Annual Cup Base in 2017 (p.2 et p8 – p 11).
In February 2018, IFCO formally submitted a membership request (the act of creation and the statutes present in the membership application file, clearly identify the constitution of the share capital as well as the different shares of each shareholder ) to the Federation of Wood Industrialists (FIB), which is the union of industrial loggers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The result of the membership application analysis recognized that IFCO met all of the FIB membership criteria. In March 2018, IFCO was notified as a member of the FIB.
The Federation of Wood Industrials is able to say and confirm that its members COTREFOR and IFCO are two very distinct entities.
2. Potential illegal activities of COTREFOR in 2017
« Our analysis clearly indicates that in 2017, the company exploited the forest outside of the authorized perimeters, creating forest roads extending from 5 to 20 km over a forest located outside the authorized cutting area. » (GW, 2019 ; P.9).
Note : We would like to reiterate that Global Witness does not have a monopoly on the analysis of satellite imagery. Again, should this analysis be done in the most objective way possible.
Article 64 of Decree 084-CAB-MIN-ECN-DD-CJ-00-RBM-2016 of October 29, 2016 relating to conditions and rules for the exploitation of lumber essentially talks about cutting timber artwork. It is nonetheless incomprehensible and regrettable that an NGO as respectable as Global Witness succeeds in equating a road opening with illegal logging.
To return to this route opened outside the 2013-2017 five-year block referred to in the report, this section of road represented a road advance on the 2018-2022 five-year block whose Management Plan had been submitted to administration since March 2017 and the AAC 2-1 Annual Plan of Operations had been filed in September 2017. It should be recalled that COTREFOR had received validation notifications from all of these media from the Forest Administration planning.
In addition, the advance road practice is not an invention of COTREFOR, it is a practice that is very well framed by national and sub-regional texts applicable in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We can cite:
• The Operational Guide on Principles of Reduced Impact Logging in the DRC (June 2017), page 14.
• FAO, Regional Code of Low Impact Logging in Forests Dense Tropical Humides of Central and West Africa, p5, p20 and p37;
• Le Memento du Forestier, Techniques Rurales en Afrique 3e Edition, p765 ;
We regret that the expertise of Global Witness could have ignored the recommendations of these documents, just to discredit the legality of the forestry operations of our former member.
3. Sustainability of forestry activities and publication of the Baulu Concession 09/11 Management Plan
« The reopening of these areas to exploitation after such a short time does not technically constitute an explicit breach of Congolese law. However, these practices strongly suggest that the logging operations carried out in the Baulu concession are not sustainable, even though the company has developed a 25-year management plan of which it has boasted a great deal ». (GW, 2019 ; P.11).
As Global Witness so aptly points out, this practice does not constitute a violation of law in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As a result, it has no right to question the laws of the DRC, believing that they do not guarantee the sustainability of the exploitation of its forests.
In view of the above, what right does Global Witness allow itself to criticize a company for congratulating itself on being a pioneer in terms of forest management in the DRC? We think Global Witness should stop bullshit and encourage companies like these.
Exploitation in the Baulu concession has been carried out since 2013 in accordance with its development plan which has been technically validated by the competent services of the Congolese Ministry in charge of Forests. This same development plan that Global Witness wants to question has just been approved by the Governor of the Province of Tshuapa after verification of the legal existence of the company, of compliance with the payment of taxes owed to the province and respect for the execution of social clauses.
The basic principle of the sustainability of logging concession operations is respect for the implementation of its management documents. And until proof to the contrary, the order in which the different Annual Cup Plates are cut has been scrupulously observed as mentioned in its Management Plan, its Five-Year Management Plans and its Annual Operations Plans.
The development plan of the Baulu concession was presented to the public in July 2013, and the report of these consultations was registered with Direction des Inventaires et Aménagement Forestier (DIAF) on 11/27/2013 at 2:36 p.m. ‘by post. N ° 675. In addition, this Development Plan was the subject of a Certificate of conformity and an approval order by the Governor of the Province of Tshuapa.
4. Suspected IFCO operations during the period of suspension by the Governor of Tshuapa Province
In February 2018, the Governor of Tshuapa, in order to verify the legal existence of the company IFCO in his province and compliance with the execution of the social clause signed by his predecessor on the concession with the local communities, suspended the activities on the concession and invited the company to produce all the evidence justifying its conformity on the above mentioned aspects.
Upon receipt of the suspension notification, exchanges were established with the Governor of the Province at the beginning of March 2018. Exchanges which resulted in a temporary lifting of the suspension in light of the evidence of conformity provided. This provisional lifting of suspension which covered the months of March and April 2018 is also mentioned by the Governor in his Correspondence N ° 230/123 / CAB / PROGOU / TSH / GKAT / 2018 of May 18, 2018.
Consequently, the activities carried out by IFCO during this period (March – April 2018) could not have been classified as illegal.
After all the checks made on the elements that motivated the suspension of activities in the month of February 2018, the provincial administration was able to note that IFCO regularly pays all its taxes (area and others), that the labor code is scrupulously respected by IFCO, that the social clauses of the Five-Year Development Block n ° 1 are well executed, and that there is indeed a social clause with the communities of the Loma Group on the Five-Year Development Block n ° 2 covering the Plates Annual Cups from 2018 to 2022. These observations led the Governor to immediately lift definitively the suspension on all IFCO activities on the Baulu concession while congratulating our member on the work done (Annex 1).
5. Compliance of forest products of FIB member entities with European Union Timber Regulations
FIB member entities are in the process of certifying their forestry activities. They have set up a due diligence system to ensure the legality of their products before any import. The FIB regularly participates in national and sub-regional workshops and programs aimed at promoting the sustainability of its members’ products and activities.
The FIB has so far received no questioning of the products of its members by the competent authorities of the different importing countries whose operators are subject to the European Union Timber Regulations.
The FIB would like to remind national and international public opinion that it is aware of the performance of its members in terms of sustainable logging and that it takes care of their image.
The FIB completely refutes the allegations in the Global Witness document BU ’BUYERS BEWARE; March 2019 ” and the statements made on the media and strongly condemns the approach led by Global Witness.
It is not up to an NGO, even Global Witness, to challenge the governance of the DRC, at the risk of undermining its national and international sovereignty. The FIB reserves the right to seize the higher authorities to castigate this behavior of Global Witness which tarnished the image of the forest sector in the DRC.