At the national level, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) is responsible for management of forest resources through the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry (VNFOREST). The VNFOREST’s Head Office covers several departments:
Parties harvesting timber in Viet Nam must hold a valid land use title. The most important user groups entitled to harvest timber in Viet Nam are ‘State companies’ and ‘Households’, although a significant part of the national forest area is managed directly by communal People’s Committees (PC) – the lowest level of state administration in the country.
Circular 28 (MARD, 2018) specifies the requirements for the preparation of sustainable forest management (SFM) plans for three types of forests (special use forests, protection forests and production forests) based on the following 7 principles, each of them developed into criteria and indicators in Appendix I of the Circular:
With regards to peoples’ rights, Circular 28 is applicable to forest areas that are home to many ethnic minorities (EM) peoples. It covers key technical guidance, including requirements for respecting and providing development opportunities for EM peoples during project preparation and implementation – in a way that is culturally appropriate to them. The circular expects that no direct adverse effect is caused to EM peoples. The Climate Change and Green Growth Development Policy Financing – PSIA 22 also enhances the position of EM peoples in forestry projects through meaningful consultation with, and participation of EM peoples throughout project life (World Bank 2019).
Recommended good practice for forest owners include:
No fees or royalties based on forest area or timber volume exist as part of the Vietnamese forest/timber sector taxation system. Companies are only liable to paying value-added tax (VAT). Certain categories of products, however, are subject to export taxes, such as logs and sawnwood (25%), hoopwood, split poles and piles (5%), parquet flooring (5%), railway sleepers (20%), veneer (10%), wood charcoal (5-10%), and wood chips (2%) (Source: Viet Nam Customs).
There is currently a logging ban in place for all natural, protected and special purpose forests (not plantations), which prevents all logging apart from logging in planted forests, and with the exceptions of ‘salvage’ and ‘sanitation’ harvesting in both natural and planted forests.
‘Salvage harvesting’ of forest products under Vietnamese Forestry Law covers three cases:
‘Sanitation’ harvesting aims to remove trees or plants that have fallen or are dying from natural causes or disasters, in order to minimize the risks of a disease or pest, or any fire, spreading to other nearby trees.
Previous regulations on the harvesting of timber were abolished by the Circular 27/2018/TT-BNNPTNT (16/11/2018) and the new procedures for timber harvesting activities (as per Articles 8 to 15 of this Circular) are as follows:
There are no specific legal documents that must be used in Vietnam in relation to customary rights or indigenous people’s rights. Forest-related issues, when they occur, are solved by local governments on the basis of regulations or laws such as the Land Law, and the Law on Forestry.
The new ‘Regulations on the management and traceability for the origin of forest products (Circular 27,2018) provides for the constitution of different “dossiers” (sets of documents) according to the origin and destination of the forest products, which includes:
As part of these provisions, two important documents are the ‘Packing list of forest products’ and the ‘Forest product entry and exit book’ (see below in ‘Key documents’).
A ‘forest product origin dossier’ includes: an original packing list certified by a local forest protection authority; a copy of the decision on forest “repurposing” (see above) or copy of the silvicultural project or scientific research program/project that has been approved (where applies); and an original report on location, area and volume of forest products to be harvested).
In particular, the required documentation for local trade and transport of forest products includes:
It is important to note that for due diligence / due care purposes under international timber regulations (like the EU TR) on further processed and re-exported products in and from Vietnam, there is no specific legal obligation for Vietnamese importers to prove or ensure that the imported forest products were legally harvested and produced, and are traceable back to, where the trees grew and the wood was harvested.
In order to meet customer’s requirements (like for EUTR due diligence) and country-specific regulations, these dossiers may also include other common documents such as: purchase contract, commercial invoice, phytosanitary certificates, FSC / PEFC certificates, fumigation certificate, bill of lading, certificate of origin, timber traceability lists, timber supplier lists, etc.