Proposed Bakong Palm Oil Mill not viable business proposition — Association

Nora (sixth left back row) and Ngumbang (seventh left back row) with members of the PTTRBM in a photocall after the meeting. At third left (front) is Marudi assemblyman Datu Dr Penguang Manggil.

KUCHING: The proposed setting-up of an independent Bakong Palm Oil Mill is not a viable business proposition as it could lead to a major environmental disaster.

According to Persatuan Tuai Tuai Rumah Beluru Marudi (PTTRBM) in a press statement made available here yesterday, their stand on the matter was further reaffirmed during a recent meeting specifically to deliberate on the proposed project by the State Farmers Organisation to be sited at Sg Laong in Bakong.

All PTTRBM members as well as ‘all’ penghulus and pemancas in Marudi  constituency attended the meeting, said the statement which was jointly signed by their chairman Tuai Rumah Ngumbang Tia and secretary Tuai Rumah Nora Ree.

“Our outright opposition to the proposed setting-up of an independent oil mill is based on the following facts. Firstly, there is no economic rationale behind the importance and benefit of the project as claimed by Datuk Sylvester Entri, the chairman of State Farmers Organisation.

“The reasons being that the existing smallholders are adequately served by the existing mills in Bakong area, relying solely on the supply of fresh fruit bunches (FFB) from the smallholders to feed the mill without owning a reasonably size planted area. It does not make any business sense and the business model of the joint venture is no longer a saleable concept especially when it involves local participation.

“In this instance, besides a mere 10 per cent of the total equity allotted to members of Area Farmers Association Baram, being a minority shareholders, they are certainly not involved in the high-level management of the mill, let alone having access to the financial transactions and records of the JV company.

“Thus, there is a high possibility that they will be receiving 10 per cent of nothing or a quantum that will be arbitrarily arrived at through creative accounting.”

The PTTRBM said members of the communities and other stakeholders have not duly been consulted or briefed and/or adequately been consulted or briefed by the proponents of the proposed projects.

“As stakeholders, we are very concerned on matters that potentially have far reaching consequences arising from the setting-up of the mill. To-date, the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) process have not been initiated.

“The narrative that the majority of the oil palm smallholders agreed for the mill to be set up is not true at all. In actual fact, it is the opposite.

“During our meeting, all the smallholders had explicitly rejected the business proposition. Notwithstanding the above facts and argument, Entri may consider other more suitable locations such as relocating such mill to within the proximity of his own longhouse in Puyut. As of now, there are no collection centres and privately owned oil palm mill in his area.

“It intrigues us as well that in his capacity as the chairman of PPNS and a member of Nafas (National Farmers Association) Board of Directors at national level, why is he only moving around and carrying out his programme and projects in Marudi constituency, and not in other areas in the state?” the statement added.

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