Planted Forest, Forest Timber licence holders advised to give chance to others if they are facing problems

Hamden Mohammad

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KUCHING, April 10: Existing licence holders of both Planted Forest and Forest Timber who are unable to work in line with the proposed forestry policies can surrender the licensed areas as the state government has other interested parties to take over.

In a statement today, Sarawak Forestry Department director Hamden Mohammad clarified concerns raised by Sarawak Timber Association (STA) over the recently proposed forestry policies by the state government that was highlighted in a local daily on March 29.

“The state government is very cautious and take into consideration all factors in formulating forestry policy based on current needs and development in forestry,” he assured.

The recently proposed forestry policies, he elaborated, was to enhance sustainable forest management and had taken into consideration current needs in environmental protection, economic development and social well being of the locals.

“The formulation of several forestry policies by the state government has undergone a series of consultation sessions with the industry players and other stakeholders to achieve a win-win situation between stakeholders.

“Our objective is to formulate a comprehensive policy that is good for the state government and all stakeholders, especially for the people of Sarawak,” he said.

The implementation to increase timber premium and cess last year, he continued, was not the biggest obstacle to the industry to accelerate its development.

Hamden pointed out that the current policies, including a review of timber rates, had and always reflected the actual situation of the industry and supported by feasibility studies.

For example, he said the charges on a certain amount of forest produce had never been revised for the past 20 to 30 years, in which the rate was no longer relevant to the current situation.

“The revenue from Hill Timber Premium and Rehabilitation and Development cess are mainly for financing education and welfare for the benefit of the people,” he said.

The state government, he emphasised, believed that Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Certification principles were good practices that were in line with the goal to ensure that the state’s forests were managed sustainably.

“The Forest Management Certification (FMC) strengthened SFM by (i) promoting good governance through transparency and credibility in managing forest management area, (ii) advocating responsible forestry through compliance with laws and regulation, and international standards, and (iii) ensuring comprehensive approach by taking into account economic viability, environmentally sound and socially acceptable forest management,” he explained.

Hamden stressed that the sustainability of the state’s forests should not only be valued by dollar and cents.

On another issue, he said the implementation of planted forests (LPF) was to reduce pressure on the natural forests.

“For the past 20 years, the performance of planting was not very encouraging. In fact, the government has provided incentives to LPF license holders by allowing some parts of the area to be planted with one cycle of oil palm to provide financial support.

“It is interesting to note that the planting of oil palm over LPF area is very successful without even facing any issues on the shortage of manpower, land issues as well as research and development (R&D),” he added.

He highlighted that R&D was not merely under the full responsibility of the government as it should be a collective effort by all agencies and industries.

He noted that all this while, Sarawak’s timber industry still focused on producing primary products such as sawn timber and plywood.

“The Sarawak timber industry has to transform structurally from primary processing to producing higher value-added products. The industry players must align themselves to the external changes and must be ready to adopt new ways of doing things, including the usage of the latest technology,” he said.

“They must use the right technology to produce suitable and new products with quality acceptable in the global market. Technology can also shift the industry from labour-intensive sector to automated manufacturing.” — DayakDaily