Monday, July 22

State government won’t bow to anti-palm oil movement, stresses Masing

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Masing shows a copy of his winding-up speech on the last day of the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting yesterday.

THE state government will not bow to pressure put on the palm oil industry by green activists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the august house was told yesterday.

Land Development Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing when delivering his winding-up speech on the final day of the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting said since the 80’s there had been continued palm oil smear campaigns by so-called green activists and NGOs but the industry was here to stay.

“My ministry and this government will continue to fight for the betterment of our people. No threats, no intimidation will stop this government from carrying out what is good for Sarawakians.

“Not cutting our forests is not an option. It is a must and a necessity if we are to survive but in this fight my ministry needs the help and support of every member of this house,” he urged.

He said this was because the anti-palm oil campaigns would have adverse socio-economic implications on Sarawak so government agencies involved with the industry, the private sector across the palm oil value chain as well as smallholders should unite against all forms of smear campaigns levelled at the industry.

“We must all realise that if locals aggravate the international community via smear campaigns, this will frighten off investors. In fact, Wilmar International Limited’s new policy has frightened at least two investors from taking up NCR (native customary rights) land development projects allocated to them,” he said.

Wilmar’s new policy is ‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation’ that it claimed to accelerate sustainable market transformation for palm oil.

“We have to take a serious view of all the anti-palm oil campaigns, especially Wilmar’s new policy, because these will have adverse socio-economic implications on Sarawak,” Masing said.

He said the new policy that restricted new planting or replanting on deforested area and on peat land would jeopardise the state target of having two million hectares of oil palms by year 2020.

Stopping future development on NCR land, which had been idle, will also deprive natives of potential earnings as more than half a million hectares have been approved for development, he said.

“As of Dec 31, 2013 about 130,000 hectares of NCR Land belonging to 37,674 landowners have been developed under the organised smallholders’ approach where RM753.5 million was paid to these smallholders,” he explained.

Additionally, the new policy will also result in the loss of household income among the estimated 18,000 independent smallholders.

“These independent smallholders, who depend entirely on the return from their small plots of oil palms have cultivated over 90,000 hectares as at Dec 31, 2013,” Masing disclosed.

Other adverse impacts include potential loss of revenue to the state from sales tax averaging RM390.3 million annually and constituting 9.4 per cent of the total state revenue over the past three years.

“It will also cause loss of jobs and thus income among the 20,000 Sarawakians gainfully employed in the palm oil industry in the state,” he added.