Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Papua moves to ban all log exports

Papua moves to ban all log exports

Mark Forbes December 6, 2007

PAPUA will ban all log exports from next month, in a radical move to preserve one of the world's largest remaining tracts of untouched forests.

Governor of the Indonesian province, Barnabas Suebu, told The Age that the Bali climate change conference should endorse funding the anti-logging moves, due to its impact on reducing global warming.

Mr Suebu said he had already imposed a moratorium on issuing new logging licences and would present legislation next month withdrawing all licences, as loggers had been destroying Papua's forests illegally. Licences would only be reissued under strict conditions, he said.

All forest concession holders would have to develop wood processing facilities in Papua, as the ban on raw log exports would remain in place. They must also agree to plant five trees for every one they cut.

The "Chinese mafia", operating out of Malaysia and mainland China were responsible for rampant illegal logging in Papua, Mr Suebu said. "I think the mafia of illegal logging is well organised."

At least 7.2 million cubic metres of timber was being cut in Papua a year, rapidly shrinking its 42 million hectares of forests, which has the highest level of biodiversity in the world. Papua was receiving almost no income from the logging, he said.

Mr Suebu revealed a new decree for forest preservation, which he had just signed along with the Governor of the neighbouring province of West Papua.

The proposals had also been submitted to the Indonesian Government, but Mr Suebu stated he had the authority to implement them under new regional autonomy laws.

"From January 2008, we will stop all logs going out of this island," Mr Suebu said. "We will not export timber from Papua."

The total prohibition on log exports was justified as local communities received only $US10 ($A11.50) for a high-quality log, he said. Once the log was smuggled to China and processed, it was worth $US1500.

Small-scale timber processing industries would be established in Papua so local people could benefit from logging, he said, despite the reduction in tree felling.

About 65% of Papua's forest cover would be totally protected, including at least 15% of the forests earmarked for logging. The world, through the Bali conference initiatives, should compensate Papua for the move, he said.

"I am the governor for all creatures in Papua, for the ants, for the birds, for the trees and I have to protect them. Without them there will be no life for all of us."

Mr Suebu said he was expecting vocal protests from timber interests, but the moves would have a dramatic impact and would work, he predicted.

Papua's ports would be patrolled and 1500 rangers were being trained to enforce the laws.
The Forest Minister in Jakarta was opposing the moves to withdraw logging licences, said Mr Suebu. Once Papua ensured the laws would stand up to legal challenge, they would be passed.
"In the end, we have to save our forests and manage it in a sustainable way and make money to eradicate poverty, that is the goal of this policy," he said.