Abg Jo spells out Sarawak’s forest policies at confab

Abang Johari (seated fifth from left), flanked by Awang Tengah and Len Talif (right), poses with the conference participants after the opening ceremony.

By Geryl Ogilvy

KUCHING, Jan 22: Forest restoration is one of the state’s main agendas this year to enrich logged-over areas with high-value timber species, especially in degraded areas within Permanent Forest Estate (PFE).

This to ensure the forest remains a vibrant, complex ecosystem which can carry out natural functions and have sufficient stocks for sustainable production of timber, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He pointed out that restoring the forest landscape was crucial for the state to move forward in its forest management and timber industry. Although Sarawak maintains an extensive forest cover, most of its production forests had undergone selective logging that affected the structure and species composition.

“Our primary goal is to maintain forest functions for the well-being of our people, ensure sustainable development of the timber industry to be competitive while aiming for bigger market share.

“The desired situation is for Sarawak to remain green by maintaining at least 50 per cent forest cover; thus, giving a good image and reputation internationally.

“Our forest must also be able to provide alternative revenue (carbon trading and ecotourism) as well as enhance participation of local communities in forest management,” he said when opening the Stakeholders Consultation on the Proposed Forestry Policies Conference here today.

Abang Johari outlined key areas to strengthen its forest management and timber industry.

With regards to forestry, the government has targeted to constitute six million hectares (ha) of land as PFEs and one million ha as Totally Protected Areas (TPA).

To date, the state has achieved about 4.32 million ha or 72 per cent of state land mass as PFE, while TPA has reached 816,512 ha or 82 per cent.

Abang Johari said the state had also embarked on industrial forest since 1998 by issuing licences for planted forest to reduce pressure on raw material to the timber industry.

“The government has set a target of one million ha to be planted by 2020. Unfortunately, the progress is still very slow. After 20 years, only 420,146 ha has been planted.

“Therefore, the state would like this effort to be intensified by LPF (Licence for Planted Forests) licensees concerned. The Forest Department and Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) would provide the necessary assistance to facilitate and expedite the process,” he continued.

Abang Johari (second from left) arriving at the event. He is accompanied by Awang Tengah (left) and Len Talif.

Abang Johari said the state would review its forest laws and policies to keep abreast with current development and best practices.

The state government would ensure that forest-related policies would be comprehensive and take into account forest functions from the economics, environmental and social aspects.

“With many countries introducing laws to ensure only legal timber enter their market, we will also enhance the implementation of Sarawak Timber Legality Verification System (STLVS).

“Verification by a third party will be carried out and enforcement will be intensified to ensure compliance and to curb any illegal activities,” he said.

He pointed out that Sarawak must also keep abreast with the latest technologies in the area of forest planning, monitoring, research and development, and enforcement.

Abang Johari cited the use of drones, geospatial technology and big data that it would leverage on.

“We also need to step up our research and development programmes, particularly in industrial forests, to overcome the shortage of high-quality planting materials, improve yield and combat pest and disease problem.

“At the same time, the state timber industry has to transform structurally from primary processing to producing higher value-added products like bioplastic, biofuel, pulp and paper, engineered wood and furniture.”

The two-day conference, which ends tomorrow, is organised by the Ministry of Urban Development and Natural Resources together with the state Forest Department, SFC and Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC).

The objective of the consultation is to seek stakeholders inputs on the proposed forestry policies and implementation mechanism to ensure sustainable forest management in Sarawak.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan and Assistant Minister for Urban Planning, Land Administration and Environment Datuk Len Talif Salleh were present at the conference. — DayakDaily