Saturday, October 31

Structural reforms needed to combat illegal logging — See

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KUCHING: The state needs institutional or structural reforms in the laws and enforcement in order to put an end to illegal logging activities in the state, says Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How.

“We have got the legal provisions to curb illegal logging but it seems the laws are now insufficient and enforcement lacking.

“Then you asked them to come and make a pledge (during the signing of Corporate Integrity Pledge among government agencies, licence holders and contractors). But what is a pledge?

“If you have the law and if they are observing the law, isn’t it better than just merely pledging that they will not engage in illegal logging?” he asked when commenting on illegal logging in the state yesterday.

“Are they making the Corporate Integrity Pledge to pacify the administration of the new chief minister?”

See, who is state PKR vice-chairman, acknowledged that Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem had sent a very strong message when he said the state government would not issue any new timber licence in line with his administration’s efforts to keep corruption and illegal logging at bay.

However, he said if Adenan was really serious in putting an end to illegal logging, he would need to tackle the problem on a range of fronts including strengthening law enforcement in all aspects.

“He (Adenan) tries to tackle (illegal logging) but whether it goes down well with everybody is another matter. The government is a huge structure so he will have to initiate and put in place some institutional and structural reforms.”

See said among common corrupt practices in the timber industry was illegal logging using logging licences, where loggers would not log in the licensed area but other areas or in protected forests or forest reserves.

“We don’t blame the timber concession holders totally because they engaged contractors and the timber harvesting and felling are sub-contracted or further sub-contracted to other people who are carrying out the actual felling and logging. So they don’t bother, they will just make use of the licence to log as much as they can.”

He said the matter was made worse with enforcement officers refusing, unable or unwilling to execute their duties.

“I have never heard of supervision of timber extraction. When they are just waiting for the inspection and certification of logs at the log pond, they are legitimising illegally felled timber in the process.”

In describing the situation of illegal logging in the state as ‘really bad’, he said the government figures and the satellite imageries don’t tally.

“From the government figures, you’re supposed to have more than 80 per cent forested area, but when you see the satellite image, less than five per cent of those areas are not logged-over.

“Of course, the ministry can base it on the timber concession areas licensed out to assert that we have a lot of forest reserves, national parks and protected areas but then what happens on the ground is a totally different thing, as licences are used to log in those reserves and protected areas.

“The satellite imagery is the best evidence to demonstrate and verify the extent of illegal logging. When we see it (the forest) is no more it shows how serious illegal logging is in Sarawak.”