KUCHING (Jan 31): The Sarawak Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association (Doppa) is calling upon the government to intervene in the matter pertaining to the European Union (EU)’s Deforestation Regulations in its Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), which is said to be excluding the Dayak oil palm farmers from the EU market.
In this regard, Doppa president Napolean Ningkos expresses his concern about CSDDD, which he claims is threatening to remove the state-approved right for indigenous land use, under ‘a green pretext of saving forests in tropical countries’.
“It is making its way up to the legislative chain in the EU, and is expected to become legally binding for all companies that import goods into the EU.
“The core purpose of CSDDD is to ensure that European imports do not cause deforestation in countries that produce palm oil, cocoa, coffee, rubber and other commodities,” he said in a statement.
Napolean, who had just attended a session with European Members of the Parliament, Heidi Hautala and Christophe Hansen in Brussels, said as indigenous people, the Dayaks have the right to develop their ancestral lands as approved by the Sarawak government under the Native Territorial Domain (NTD) of Sarawak Land Code.
“Achieving the force of law and proprietary interests under NTD has given Sarawak Dayaks the right to use their ancestral lands as they see fit.
“The CSDDD seems to be threatening to remove the state-approved right for indigenous land use, under a green pretext of saving forests in tropical countries,” he pointed out.
Adding on, Napoleon said based on the wordings of the CSDDD, which is now awaiting formal acceptance by the European Parliament, all targeted commodities including palm oil, could not be the cause of deforestation after December 2020.
“Overall, this is not a concern for the indigenous Dayak oil palm planters in Sarawak.
“The farmers who are members of Doppa can easily prove that they grow oil palms on land parcels used to grow rice, rubber and other subsistence crops on.
“There is no deforestation in Doppa members’ production of palm oil,” he added.
On the CSDDD, Napoleon saw two main issues.
“Firstly, how will the EU define deforestation? Dayak land owners may clear some secondary forests over neglected family farms where some trees have regrown naturally after December 2020, in order to grow oil palms as a way to improve family incomes.
“Will this be considered deforestation?
“This is a big concern as we have seen the EU forming opinions on deforestation based on satellite data from their NGOs (non-governmental organisations) where every oil palm tree, is read as having replaced an old tree.
“This is typical of neo-colonisation mentality, with no ground ‘truthing’. I believe that there is no option to challenge their findings as we are simply to follow their definitions on deforestation and regulations.
“The Indigenous Dayaks today are educated enough and informed, that this old colonialist attitude ‘of doing what the masters demand without question’, cannot be acceptable,” he said.
The next thing, he questioned, was about how the EU would be looking to shift the burden of proof and its cost to the Dayak farmers.
“The CSDDD is basically a process where EU will pass the responsibility to EU Palm Oil Traders to ensure that no palm oil products would be coming from deforested areas and that no child labour or human rights abuses is involved.
“We have seen how these EU traders would pass the costs down to their suppliers – always resulting in the costs being passed down to plantations and smallholder farmers.”
Napoleon said he had discussed this problem with the cocoa and coffee farmers from Africa, who were also facing the same threat from the EU green policies and they agreed that the absence of engagement, incentive systems or price premiums for produce meeting the CSDDD criteria ‘was a big problem’.
“I do respect that they can impose such regulation on us for palm oil products to enter the EU market, but they also should consider our right to advance in our socio-economic development,” he stressed.
Napolean suggested that the EU would include national certification for palm oil into the EU’s demands under CSDDD.
He said the Malaysian government had invested much into the certification of small and medium palm oil plantations under the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) scheme.
“The most recent data on the certification process shows that 98 per cent of Malaysian palm oil has undergone audit and achieved certification under the MSPO.
“This is the EU’s best option to prevent the exclusion of the indigenous Dayak oil palm farmers from its supply chain.
“If the EU and the palm oil traders would not finance the certification of the indigenous Dayak farmers to meet its demands, then it’s only justifiable that the EU accepts the MSPO certification as proof of its sustainability and deforestation-free status,” he stressed.