Pressure mounts on PNG govt over forestry
The Papua New Guinea government is under more pressure to enforce laws around forestry, following two recent reports by international NGOs related to PNG's forestry industry, and the flow of finances around it.
The Papua New Guinea government is under more pressure to enforce laws around forestry.
This follows two recent reports by international NGOs related to PNG's forestry industry, and the flow of finances around it.
Johnny Blades reports:
PNG's forests form part of the third largest rainforest basin in the world after the Amazon and the Congo in central Africa. The country is the world's largest exporter of tropical wood, however the average export price for PNG timber is far lower than those of other major exporters of logs. According to a recent report by the Oakland Institute, there's a system of massive tax evasion by foreign logging companies in PNG.
PNG's Forestry Minister Douglas Tomuriesa said the report's findings were inaccurate because the companies, of which many are Malaysian, do pay log export taxes. But Effrey Dademo of the transparency and environmental NGO Act Now says Mr Tomuriesa seems to miss the fact that the companies have been reported as avoiding corporate, not log export, taxes.
EFFREY DADEMO: "They're declaring losses every year and therefore avoiding company tax and that is highly suspicious in itself. And so what I think the minister should do as a state minister is not to take sides, because it shows conflict of intererst. He should be supporting a call to fund Internal Revenue Commission so they could do an audit of what the report is talking about."
Another new report, from Forest Trends, tracks forest conservation finance flowing to PNG. It found that compared to other countries with large tropical forests, PNG receives far less finance under the United Nations' programme REDD+ where countries and landowner communities stand to earn money from conserving their forests. A researcher who tracks conservation finance, Brian Schaap says PNG's forestry laws are good but implementation of the laws is not.
BRIAN SCHAAP: "REDD is now incentivised in the Paris (UN climate change) agreement as a mechanism that countries are encouraged to use to reduce their emissions. So that's a big step forward and I think for PNG our report finds that there are definitely some irregularities in the way that timber licenses are issued, and there needs to be a lot of work in claning up that sector, and making sure that there's alot of transparency and that rules and laws on the books are adhered to."
However, Mr Tomuriesa insists the government is closely monitoring all logging activity in PNG for adherence to the rules.
DOUGLAS TOMUIRIESA: "We have an international company, SGS, that monitors every logging operation in this country. Last year I told you that we are able to - for the first time - set up remote sensing equipment at forest. So I monitor every operation of logging companies in this country. I know how many trees have gone down in which operation operations in this country, which concession."
The minister claims that forestry brings benefits to PNG, including roads which have opened up many remote parts of the country to development. But Effrey Dademo dismisses this.
EFFREY DADEMO: "These are roads that they use their vehicles to go into to transport the logs out. It's not done up to a standard that can be used by commuters to transport their produce out to the markets, it's not up to that standard."
The government is also under growing pressure from civil society to cancel dozens of Special Agricultural Business Leases. The leases, which are mostly a front for logging and cover over 10% of PNG's total land mass, were found by a commission of inquiry three years ago to be fraudulent. PNG's government has still not revoked them.
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