‘ITTO’s endorsement of proposed ‘Upper Baram Forest Area’ is only first step’

Peter says several communities in the Upper Baram Area developed the idea of an Indigenous-led rainforest park in 2009.

KUCHING, Dec 18: The endorsement of the proposed ‘Upper Baram Forest Area’ by the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) is the first step in making the project into a reality, said SAVE Rivers chairman Peter Kallang.

“As I have stated in my remarks, the endorsement by ITTO is the first step. After this, the member countries can choose to fund it. Did I say otherwise?” said Peter in a statement issued here today.

Peter explained that the project was done in full collaboration from the beginning to implementation, maintenance and development, starting with the process of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) based on the guideline under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

“That press statement that we made recently was just a way to keep our stakeholders informed on the progress of the proposal,” added Peter.

He was commenting on Sarawak Forest Department director Datu Hamden Mohammad’s comments on the announcement made by Peter recently was incorrect as FDS has only submitted the project entitled “Management of Upper Baram Forest Area for conservation and sustainable development with the involvement of local communities, Upper Baram, Sarawak” for approval to ITTO but has yet to receive any funding.

“Approval by ITTO does not indicate the commitment of funding because the fund for any project must be pledged by at least two donors from donor member countries. If there are no donors, then the “Upper Baram Forest Area project is unlikely to be implemented,” Hamden said in a statement issued yesterday.

Additionally, Hamden asserted that FDS and the State Government have never use the name “Baram Peace Park” to refer to the project area.

To this, Peter said the name ‘Baram Peace Park’ was used after former Chief Minister, the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem had suggested that the project should include the other communities in Ulu Baram.

“But actually, there is no name given to the project yet,” Peter said.

He stressed that since ‘Baram Peace Park’ was the name they have been using to lobby for the project, they had since conveniently used it to inform the stakeholders on the progress of the project.

“Since the most common name being used and known both locally and internationally is ‘Baram Peace Park’ that is why we use that. The name is a petty thing. What we are interested in is the implementation of the project based on the concept with the consent of all stakeholders,” he said.

Three days ago, Peter had announced that after six years of hard work, the local people in Upper Baram Forest Area, also known as the Baram Peace Park was now a reality after it has been endorsed by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).

He had explained that several communities in the Upper Baram Area developed the idea of an Indigenous-led rainforest park in 2009.

The initiative had received support from local and international civil societies such as KERUAN, SAVE Rivers, Bruno Manser Fund, and The Borneo Project before it was taken up by the Sarawak government under former Chief Minister the later Pehin Sri Adenan Satem in 2015.

ITTO would have to raise $814,128.00 (RM 3.3 mil) to finance the project.

The Baram Peace Park is the second community-initiated project in Sarawak to promote conservation and sustainable development on such a scale, the first being the Pulong Tau National Park proposed by Kelabit communities of the Northern Highland in the early 1990s. -Dayakdaily