By Serah Aupong – EM TV News, Port Moresby
The “end of round log exports” and “resolutions on issues around SABLs” are being highlighted as significant steps forward in ensuring forestry sustainability in the country.
PNG’s Forests Minister, Douglas Tomuriesa, said this while announcing the upcoming APEC Forestry meeting.
Ministers Responsible for Forestry, from the 21 APEC countries, will meet in Port Moresby in October, 2015.
This high level meeting is part of 200 meetings that will lead up to the 2018 APEC leaders meeting in Port Moresby.
This meeting will be the third time APEC Forest Ministers meet to discuss issues affecting the industry.
In its first two meetings, the Ministers recognised the socio-economic diversity of the APEC countries, and the crucial roles that forest resources play, not only as a source of services, but also as a means to provide livelihoods.
According to Minister Tomuriesa, illegal logging is “a story of the past.”
He said with the help of JICA they, as in the Forest Ministry and the PNG Forest Authority, have installed a satellite system that ensures the PNG Forest Authority is able to locate illegal logging operations as they occur.
Whether or not this actually works, still needs to be accessed.
Gary Juffa, a politician who is vocal about the abuse of SABLs in the country, says the upcoming meeting must focus on the rights of traditional owners of forest resources.
While highlighting a recent confrontation between logging operators and landowners in an isolated and heavily forested area of Northern province, Juffa says, “we have to take physical, assertive measures to protect our resource owners and landowners. Right now our landowners are being mistreated. Government agencies and government resources are being used against our landowners. When they raise their voice, their concerns, they are being beaten.”
Governor Juffa said reports on this Binandere incident states that landowners were beaten and locked up in logging containers by police personnel last week, when they protested against a Malaysian company who was harvesting logs on their land.
One of their tribal leaders here in Port Moresby, Ian Jinga, says logging operations have been ongoing in that area for over 20 years. However, the company’s move onto Iowa block 3 is “illegal as they do not have consent by the landowners.”
Governor Juffa and the Binandere people of Iowa, are planning on bringing this issue up with all relevant authorities.
While issues such as this are raised around the forestry industry in the country, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said the ultimate outcome of PNG’s involvement in the APEC is to expand PNG’s export opportunities, increase technical capacity and create job for Papua New Guinea’s.
Minister Tomuriesa said the forestry industry makes up a vital part of PNG’s economy, and it is essential that work is done to ensure this sector remains sustainable for decades to come.
The meeting will be hosted through a collaborative effort from the PNG Forest Authority, the APEC PNG Secretariat and the Asia-Pacific Network for Sustainable Management and Rehabilitation.