Involve NGOs in sustainable palm oil debate, MPOC told

KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Palm Oil NGO Coalition (MPONGOC) yesterday took to task Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) chief executive officer Tan Sri Yusof Basiron for stating that the soon-to-be launched Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) will cater to the international way of developing standards, but “definitely not the non-governmental organisations’ way.”

The coalition also questioned Yusof’s statement that the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was going to upset a lot of new oil palm development, including in Africa if it insists on applying rules and regulations in terms of land opening and “others,” which he did not specify.

Yusof had made the remarks at a Roundtable on Palm Oil hosted by a national English daily last week, which included several key players from the industry.

MPONGOC said frank discussion and resolution of issues of global concern including the debate over sustainably produced palm oil can be enhanced with the involvement of corporations and civil society, the latter most readily done through NGOs.

Speaking on behalf of the coalition, local environmental activist Omar Kadir said the recent announcement of MSPO which was coupled with justifications of why the RSPO is considered as inappropriate for Malaysia suggests a deep chasm between the thinking which forms the bases for the two approaches.

“The MSPO approach is fine as far as it goes, but it follows the one developed globally over the past two centuries, which aims for minimisation of money costs and maximisation of global financial efficiency, with some attention paid to social and environmental issues as and when citizens call for greater governmental attention to these two additional pillars of sustainable and ethical management of the Earth,” Omar said in a statement.

Omar who is the National Honorary Secretary of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and Honorary Secretary of the Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society (SCWS), said the RSPO approach on the other hand aims to give equal priority to the three “triple bottom line” elements of global sustainability – people, planet and profit.

“One can choose to regard the RSPO approach as an attack on developing countries and a monster that has no interest in smallholders.

“One can equally choose to regard this approach as something which the developed nations have failed to tackle adequately, and which a developing country, Malaysia, can promote with pride as part of the inevitable fundamental changes that will be needed to address the world’s impending ecological and social trends,” he said.

Omar pointed out that both the MSPO and RSPO approach also need a re-think on whether the governments of individual nation states will always remain the only legitimate institutions to bring order to national, global and competing international interests in the coming era of ecological and social challenges. MPONGOC had in September voiced concern about the Malaysian standard, and had described the internationally accepted RSPO as a credible solution to the many issues related to the development of the global palm oil industry. Apart from MNS Sabah and SWCS, MPONGOC is made up of several groups including the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), Indigenous Peoples’ Network of Malaysia (JOAS), Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) and Partners of Community Organisations (PACOS) Trust. The Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) is an observer. MPONGOC aims to influence land use policy and decision making, and is also working towards advocating consumer responsibility, apart from objectives that include building capacity for smallholder verification and best practices and supporting community-based organisations to engage with the industry on their own terms.

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