KUCHING: Sarawak Timber Association (STA) held its annual general meeting (AGM) yesterday which saw Pemanca Datuk Wong Kie Yik re-elected as the association’s chairman for the 2016-2017 term.
Wong is joined by Tan Sri Datuk Sir Tiong Hiew King (vice chairman), Tan Sri Datuk Ling Chiong Ho (vice chairman), Dato Henry Lau Lee Kong (honorary secretary) and Philip Choo Kwong Hui (honorary treasurer), all of whom were also re-elected for the new term.
Nine committee chairpersons who were also elected are Audrey Wong Haw Ing (Log Marketing Division), Dato Sri Law Kiu Kiong (Hill Logging), Philip Choo Kwong Hui (Swamp Logging), Annie Wong Haw Bing (Sawmilling), Stephen Lau Lee Kiong (Panel Products), Penghulu Law Buong Hoo (Moulding), Yek Siew Liong (Furniture and Other Woodworking), Stephen Hii Hium Ung (Timber Products Marketing) and Peter Ling Kwong Hung (Forest Plantation).
Earlier, Pemanca Wong in his speech said STA was fully supportive of the government’s efforts to clamp down on illegal logging and corruption.
However, he pointed out that the association did not agree with the en mass freezing of a large number of bank accounts by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) without diligent verification in the name of facilitating investigations as this action had adversely disrupted its members’ operations, in particular delaying prompt payment of wages to their employees.
“Needless to say, such hasty action had also tarnished the image of the industry to a certain extent given that reports on MACC’s actions had been widely publicised nationally and internationally earlier this year.”
Nevertheless, he noted that the frozen accounts of STA and its members had since been lifted without any charges instituted.
On the state’s efforts to eradicate illegal logging, he commended Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem for his commitment towards ensuring that the state’s forest resources were sustainably managed and that all timber and timber products produced by Sarawak were legal.
“Our chief minister has also acknowledged in his press release published on March 3 that major industry players, who are our members, have always demonstrated their commitment towards sustainable forest practices and have complied with the requirements of the state’s laws and policies.”
With the Ministry of Resource Planning and Environment also streamlining the operating processes of the four forestry agencies in line with the Sarawak Timber Legality Verification System (STLVS), Pemanca Wong hoped this would eliminate the overlapping functions and unnecessary red tapes which would enable the four forestry agencies to work better together, thus improve the overall efficiency of the industry.
He also said the association had always supported the call for forest management certification for natural forest and forest plantations by the state government.
“Through several dialogues with STA over the years, the government is also aware that our members faced adversities in trying to achieve certification. Some of these adversities arise due to the unique circumstances of the forestry and timber industry in Sarawak.
“For example, forest plantations established after Dec 31, 2010 would not be awarded plantation management certification under the MC&I Forest Plantation.v2 once it has been endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). This will disqualify many plantation areas in Sarawak from certification, as many areas are still being established even now since the award of the first License for Planted Forest in 1997,” he stressed.
In view of this, he called on the government, through its forestry agencies, to assist in resolving some of the unique issues which have hindered STA members from achieving this objective.
“Perhaps it is time for us to explore Sarawak’s very own feasible certification scheme, which can realistically be achieved by the licensees in Sarawak.”
He also appealed to the state government to give strong and continuous support to the forest plantation industry, as forest plantations generate revenue for the state government’s coffers and lighten the demand for timber from natural forests in the near future.