Wednesday, November 13

Sarawak State Government is committed to combat illegal logging

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THE State Government is committed towards ensuring the state’s forest resources are sustainably managed.

Yesterday Chief Minsiter Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem clarified that the state forests are systematically managed according to international standard.
His satement is as follows:

“We take pride in our forests, which are systematically managed according to principles established by the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO). Our goal is to manage our forests in a manner that is environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable.

Ecologically and environmentally sound forest conservation and management practices are in place to ensure the sustainable production of timber and non-timber products while safeguarding the climate, ecology, water supply, environmental quality and biological diversity of the area.

The Forest Department, the technical and scientific department, is entrusted with forest management, the efficient and effective utilisation of forest resources and the conservation of the state’s flora and fauna. It is responsible for protecting the state’s forest assets by enforcing the following three Ordinances, namely Forests Ordinance, 2015; Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1998; and the National Parks and Nature Reserves Ordinance, 1998.

Since 2014, the State Government has stepped up its efforts to combat illegal logging in Sarawak. Illegal logging has many negative impacts on the economy, environment and society. It contributes to environmental degradation which leads to biodiversity loss, destruction of habitats for animals and deforestation. Besides causing the state losses in millions of ringgit in terms of timber royalties, illegal logging damages the environment and tarnishes the state’s reputation and image.

The State Government has repealed the Forests Ordinance (Cap 126), 1954 and passed a new Forests Ordinance (Cap 71), 2015. The introduction of this new Ordinance is a clear manifestation of the State Government’s resolute commitment to strengthen the management of our forest, ensure the sustainability of our valuable forest resources, and for effective enforcement of forestry laws and regulation. The new Forests Ordinance (Cap 71), 2015 was enacted to:
(a) provide for more deterrent penalties for forest offences;
(b) strengthen provisions relating to seizure and disposal of illegal timber and any equipment, machinery, vessel or vehicles used in the commission of such offences;
(c) equip enforcement agencies with greater powers to investigate offences and to facilitate such investigations; and
(d) improve processes for the constitution and protection of forest reserves, protected forests, state land forests and communal forests and to regulate the taking of forest produce from state land or communal forests for domestic use or non-commercial purposes.
The issuance of forest timber licences is under the jurisdiction of the Forest Department. Such licences are issued subject to terms and conditions to ensure that harvesting of timber are carried out in accordance with laws, regulations, and prescribed procedures. The monitoring of harvesting is based on an annual operating plan and allowable cuts.

The big six companies (Samling, Shin Yang, Ta Ann, Rimbunan Hijau, WTK, KTS) and other long term players have adhered to the stringent conditions of concession agreements and licenses. Over the years, the companies have demonstrated their commitment towards sustainable forest practices. All these companies have duly complied with these requirements.

The State Government does not condone illegal logging and irresponsible forest management. Logs are tracked from source to the end points where logs are stamped for royalty. Along the chain of custody, there are other forestry agencies such as Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC) and Harwood Timber Sdn Bhd (HTSB) who are tasked to check and ensure legality of log and timber product. The role of multiple agencies is to provide the check-and-balance for better governance.

In strengthening the preventive and enforcement activities, the Government has taken the following measures and initiatives:-

The Government will no longer issue any more new timber licence in state land and Permanent Forest Estate, except under very special circumstances involving development of verified Native Customary Rights (NCR) or alienated land.

The establishment of ‘One Stop Compliance Centre’ (OSCC) to bring enforcement of compliance particularly assessment of royalty to the forest as close as possible to the felling site. A total of 48 OSCCs will be established throughout Sarawak in 2016.

The application of technologies such as drones, Geographical Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing for forest management and enforcement of compliance in a more efficient manner.

Increased aerial surveillance, patrolling, ‘road block’ at strategic locations and inspections at sawmills and export points.

Increased number and scope of joint operations between forestry and other enforcement agencies such as Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and Royal Malaysia Police.

Improved state of readiness of the forestry agencies to respond to public complaints and tip-offs in respect of illegal logging and illegal wildlife trade.

Strengthen state’s commitment towards sustainable forest management by encouraging timber concession holder to obtain forest management certification.

The timber concession holders especially those within the Heart of Borneo (HOB) area to obtain forest management certification by 2017 as a way forward in line with the State Government’s commitment to sustainable forest management.

To date, towards achieving this goal, Sarawak has certified one Forest Management Unit (FMU) located in Anap Muput, Bintulu;

Enhancing ‘Sarawak Timber Legality Verification System’ (STLVS) to strengthen the implementation of the legality verification system of timber and timber products produced in Sarawak. STLVS provides clear understanding on the tracking and traceability of log movement along the chain of custody from the forest to the mill or export point.

The State Government efforts in combating illegal logging were supported by the industry players through a voluntary pledge by the six major timber companies and their sub-contractors by signing the Corporate Integrity Pledge on 17 November 2014.

Through this Corporate Integrity Pledge, the timber licensees have pledged not to be involved in any illegal activities, to comply with timber license conditions, be vigilant on the ground operations and to fully commit to using only legal timber in their respective processing mills. The State Government appreciates the commitment and support extended by the timber industry especially the six major timber companies towards the State Government’s effort to eradicate illegal logging in the State and ensure due compliance with the state’s forestry laws and regulations.

The government will continue its close monitoring and strict enforcement to ensure only legal timber enters the supply chain.

In this respect, the government has established a Task Force on 1 April 2015 to act against illegal logging. Members of the Task Force include state and federal enforcement agencies, such as the Royal Malaysia Police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, the Royal Customs and major timber licencees as well as the Sarawak Timber Association which represent the timber industry players in Sarawak. The Task Force is responsible to draw up measures to further strengthen efforts to combat illegal logging. Additionally, all licensees are held responsible for the activities of their contractors, workers and agents.

The State Government is prepared to cooperate with NGOs in protecting Sarawak’s forests and ensuring sustainable management of State’s resources so long as they are sincere and have the same agenda with the State Government.

In terms of forest and biodiversity conservation, the government, under the Heart of Borneo (HoB) Initiative, has succcesfully initiated Transboundary Conservation in collaboration with Brunei and Kalimantan, Indonesia; this will cover an area of 2.1 mil hectares strecthing from Batang Ai to Lawas, Sarawak.

The ultimate outcome of the HoB initiative will synergise the state development agenda with best industry practices in biodiversity conservation.

To date, the Government had gazetted 853,836.40 hectares for Totally Protected Areas (TPAs) in Sarawak. The objective of TPAs are to conserve and protect the natural scenic beauty, wildlife and their habitats as well as facilitating studies and researches on the biodiversity of the State.

TPA comprises of national parks, nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. Currently, there are 40 National Parks, 14 Nature Reserves and 6 Wildlife Sanctuaries in the State.

The Government is in the process of gazetting another 31 more TPAs approximately 451,819.00 hectares. By year 2020, the State would have 1.3 mil hectares of TPAs.

Campaign against illegal logging has shown positive results. The number of cases investigated in 2015 has dropped from 241 cases in 2014 as compared to 208 cases in 2015. Total logs seized in 2015 is 47,060 cubic metres compared with 90,873 cubic metres in 2014.

Twenty-seven (27) suspects had been arrested in connection with forest offences in 2015. In addition, 33 wood processing mills have stopped operations. Thus far, 58 cases were referred to State Attorney-General for prosecution purposes. This campaign will be ongoing.

The foregoing initiatives by the Sarawak State Government and industry players are manifestations of our desire to ensure that all timber products produced by Sarawak does not come from illegal source. Stringent enforcement and surveillence along the chain of custody ensure that no illegal timber may enter the supply chain. Enhancement of our laws and policies as well as enforcement actions were successfully undertaken by the Government to ensure buyers’ confidence in timber products from Sarawak,”
DATUK PATINGGI TAN SRI (Dr) HAJI ADENAN HAJI SATEM

The Chief Minister of Sarawak and Resource Planning and Environment Minister