Forestry regulator loses independence
12 January 2019
Last month, OSINFOR (Organismo Supervisor de Recursos Forestales), one of the few truly effective supervisory bodies of forestry resources, lost its autonomy through its relegation from the Council of Ministers to the Environment Ministry, widely regarded as toothless in dealing with illegal logging and other environmental crimes. This change had been on the cards since September.
Critics of the move suspect that the forestry oversight body had proved far too effective in holding regional forestry authorities and logging concerns to account for widespread fraudulent operations, often involving extraction of protected timber in reserved areas or in concessions for other uses, for example collection of Brazil nuts in Madre de Dios.
Initiated earlier in 2018 by Pedro Pablo Kuczynski before his fall from grace and now implemented by Vizcarra, the move is arguably illegal under Peruvian law and violates the country's so-called Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) with the United States. The latter states that OSINFOR must be "independent and separate". See David Hill’s article in the Ecologist.
OSINFOR was set up in 2008 at much the same time that the TPA came into force.
David Hill further points out the irony that the timing of the decree marked the tenth anniversary of OSINFOR's independence and coincided with the UN climate change talks in Poland. Earlier in the year, the UN Climate Change's first annual report stated that deforestation and forest degradation "account for approximately 17% of global carbon dioxide emissions, more than the transport sector".
"No doubt about it", says Hill, "this has happened precisely because of what OSINFOR has been exposing". It is a major step backwards in protecting the Peruvian Amazon. The question remains as to whether Vizcarra will retract it to conform with the PTA and UN forest protection goals, or whether he will further inflate Peru's illicit timber trafficking and the accompanying criminalisation of the Amazonian economy.