Timber industry, forest plantation activities allowed during MCO under certain conditions

Birch forest in Finland. - DayakDaily.com file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

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KUCHING, April 1: Activities related to the timber industry including logging, plywood mill and sawmill operations, and forest plantations are allowed to operate with minimum manpower during the current Movement Control Order (MCO).

Forest Department Sarawak in a statement today, emphasised that the state government was concerned about and recognised the impact of Covid-19 on the timber industry but it hopes that industry players will not lay-off or cut workers’ wages during this challenging period.

As such, the state government has taken steps to ensure that economic activities can continue to pick up to generate productivity gains and revenue for the state.

“It is hoped that industries will prioritise the welfare of workers by taking into account their contribution to the growth and development of the timber and forestry sector as a whole.”

However, the department also cautioned that permission to operate was subject to minimum manpower and conditions issued by the Sarawak government.

“They are also required to take strict control measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“All timber sector and plantations workers are advised to stay at their respective places of work and discouraged from returning to the village during the MCO period.”

The department explained that permits will be issued to lorries for the purpose of transporting timber to factories approved for operation by the government including Samalaju and Samajaya areas while Removal Pass (RP) will be issued for loads.

However, all lorry drivers must obtain specil permits from the divisional State Disaster Management Committee (Resident Office).

The state government also allows timber exports to be carried out normally during the MCO period but exporters must comply with the current directives issued by the State Disaster Management Committee.

In addition, the state government also agreed to provide a 30 per cent discount for the Annual Land Rent (ALR) for payment in the year 2020 to 43 forestry licensees in Sarawak.

“It is hoped that this incentive will help to reduce the burden on the companies during this period of crisis and can also be used to help the welfare of their employees.

That aside, surcharges on expired royalty bills will be excluded during the MCO period but surcharges will be imposed as soon as the MCO is lifted and the bill must be paid within 14 days of issuance.

Meanwhile, the department revealed that the One Stop Compliance Centre (OSCC) has been opened to facilitate the process of royalty assessment and RP for the purpose of transferring timber to timber processing factories.

“This is to ensure that factories have sufficient supply of raw materials to process and meet domestic and foreign market commitments.”

The Regional Forestry Offices and the Treasury Division are cooperating to ensure the revenue is collected within the specified time.

Industry players may contact the nearest Regional Forest Office or the Forest Department Department (forestry.sarawak.gov.my) for more information. — DayakDaily