Sabah Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS)
The Sabah Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) is a due diligence system that ensures timber products originating from Sabah are harvested, processed, and traded in compliance with laws and regulations, as well as international standards.
The system was developed in response to growing international concerns surrounding the high-risk trade in tropical timber, particularly in European countries. The Sabah Forestry Department took proactive measures to address these issues. Back in 2007, Sabah actively participated in negotiations with the European Union (EU) concerning the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade (FLEGT) program and the development of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) for Malaysia. Although Malaysia has yet to sign the VPA, all trade in forest products between Malaysia and the EU is currently subject to the Due Diligence scheme. In preparation for potentially signing the VPA, the Sabah TLAS was established in 2009 in response to the EU FLEGT program requirement.
The Sabah TLAS has become the recognized legality standard used in Sabah's third-party auditing and serves as a comprehensive framework for ensuring the legality and sustainability of timber operations. It consists of six (6) principles and twenty-three (23) criteria, covering both the upstream and downstream industries involved in timber production as follows:
By implementing the Sabah TLAS, a reliable system for tracing timber throughout the supply chain has been established. This ensures that timber from unverified operations is effectively separated from other timber, providing assurance of product legitimacy to international markets, including Europe, Australia, the USA, Japan, and Korea.
Over the decade since its establishment, the Sabah TLAS has significantly improved compliance with existing laws and regulations, increased transparency, and enhanced forest governance. The TLAS Compliance Certificate has now become an essential component of due diligence requirements in the timber trade, particularly internationally.
The emergence of the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) in December 2022 has posed a serious challenge for Sabah in complying with the new regulations, which require timber products to be free from deforestation or degradation. The Sabah Forestry Department recognizes the necessity to revise the Sabah TLAS and is committed to ensuring the standards align with these new requirements and incorporate sustainability elements. This revision is crucial to ensure that the Sabah TLAS remains aligned and compliant with international standards while promoting sustainable timber practices.
Sabah Forestry Department (SFD):
The SFD serves as the custodian and governing body of the Sabah Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS), with the authority to issue Sabah TLAS Compliance Certificates (CC) to both upstream and downstream industries engaged in timber production and wood processing.
The FLEGT Unit formed under the SFD plays a crucial role in coordinating and monitoring the Sabah Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) auditing process, ensuring the effectiveness and integrity of TLAS implementation. Additionally, the FLEGT Unit facilitates annual Sabah TLAS internal meetings to monitor compliance, address non-compliance, resolve issues in the auditing process, and identify revisions required to align with international regulations.
Implementing Agencies Coordination Committee (IACC):
The IACC functions to facilitate coordination, monitoring, and enforcement activities in the timber industries. The IACC holds annual meetings to discuss and implement remedial actions for non-compliance and measures to comply with the Sabah Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) standard. The members of the IACC include:
i. Natural Resources Office
ii. Sabah Forestry Department
iii. Sabah Wildlife Department
iv. Environment Protection Department
v. Land and Survey Department
vi. Department of Agriculture (DoA)
vii. Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH)
ix. Labour Department
x. Royal Malaysia Customs Department Sabah
The stakeholder consultation provides a platform for constructive dialogue and feedback from stakeholders, and its function involves engaging with stakeholders, gathering valuable input, and addressing concerns related to the Sabah Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS). The composition of the stakeholder consultation includes:
i. Sabah Forestry Department
ii. Timber Association of Sabah (TAS)
iii. Sabah Timber Industries Association (STIA)
iv. Timber licensees, mills, and trade companies
v. Other relevant agencies and NGOs
Both the IACC and Stakeholder Consultation hold an annual meeting to coordinate Sabah TLAS implementation and enforcement activities, monitor the progress on audits and the Sabah TLAS checklist, seek and provide remedial actions for non-compliance, and keep all implementing agencies and timber stakeholders informed about the latest Sabah TLAS developments.
The above institutional arrangement is outlined to ensure effective implementation, monitoring, and enforcement of the Sabah TLAS. The process can be streamlined by involving relevant government agencies, industry associations, and other stakeholders, and potential issues can be addressed collaboratively. The system also promotes transparency, credibility, and adherence to sustainability standards within Sabah's timber industry.