NGOs: Complaints lodged over certification of two logging concessions

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MIRI (May 21): Some 36 Dayak communities in Ulu Baram and Ulu Limbang last week filed official complaints with the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) against the certification of two logging concessions, according to two non-govenrmental organisations (NGO).

The Borneo Project and Bruno Manser Fonds in a joint statement yesterday said the communities assert the certification was granted without their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), and without the communities having access to key documents about logging operations on their lands.

“In the complaint, the communities highlight many discrepancies between the certification scheme and its implementation.

“They also note a lack of transparency, failure to properly consult the communities, disregard of community dependence on forest resources, disregard of community initiatives for forest conservation, and flaws in MTCC’s complaint mechanism itself,” said the NGOs.

Regarding the lack of transparency, The Borneo Project and Bruno Manser Fonds said the complaint notes that key documents such as Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Social Impact Assessments (SIA) have not been made available to the public or local communities.

They said that while official documents are being withheld, summaries provided by the timber company involved demonstrate a disrespect for the lifestyle of the communities affected by the upstream operations of the said company.

“This based on one document claiming that ‘fishing is not an important activity’ for the affected communities, while another one states that the forest ‘is not fundamental to meeting the basic need of the local communities’.

“Certification without full access to information is simply unacceptable. How can communities make informed decisions when they are not given the basic facts about planned logging operations on their lands?” said The Borneo Project director Jettie Word, in the statement.

The statement said Penan leader Komeok Joe who is the chief executive officer of Keruan, a Penan support group, also questioned how the timber company involved could “pretend that the forest is not important to the Penan community”.

“They know better and should be ashamed of such blatant distortions of the facts because fishing and hunting are our main protein sources, without which we cannot survive.

“The forest is not only key to our food supply but the main cultural and economic backbone to our livelihoods,” said Komeok in the statement.

While the timber company involved and MTCC have published statements claiming that they closely follow guidelines to obtain free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of local communities, The Borneo Project and Bruno Manser Fonds said the complaints suggest there is a lack of understanding within those institutions about what FPIC actually means.

“The communities call for the full release of all relevant documents on the timber company’s operations in their forests, for proper consultation procedures, and for the recognition of the importance of forests for their livelihoods, health and wellbeing,” said the NGOs.

UPDATE: Samling has responded to the allegations. Click here to read full story.