Call for spotlight on PNG land grab at APEC Forest meeting
Papua New Guinea NGO wants spotlight on SABLs at a meeting of APEC Forest Ministers in Port Moresby in October.
An NGO says Asian and Pacific forestry ministers should be told of the land grab and illegal logging in Papua New Guinea.
APEC ministers meet in Port Moresby in October and the PNG Forestry Minister, Douglas Tomuriesa, says illegal logging and sustainability will be on the agenda.
He also says the Government is close to reaching a resolution on the Special Agricultural and Business Leases, but the NGO Act Now says these controversial deals were declared illegal two ago but the government has failed to act.
Spokesperson Eddie Tanago says 5 million hectares was illegally acquired from traditional owners and APEC ministers need to know this.
He told Don Wiseman he has little faith in the minister's claim a resolution is close.
EDDIE TANAGO: Although the announcement looks like there is something good that is going to be done about SABLs (Special Agricultural and Business Leases), but I noticed it several times announcements have been made. So we are not really hopeful about that. Unless we actually see actions happening and we see leases physically cancelled and land titles given back to land owners. So I mean, apart from the minister himself, the prime minister has come out with such announcements several times over the years. But you know nothing has been done. So I mean unless we see an action done, that is when we start believing things will happen as mentioned.
DON WISEMAN: Another thing that the minister talked about was sustainable forest management. Now the PNG forest is a significant forest on an international scale. It is also a very important part of the PNG economy, but what's happening? Going back a long way there has been talk about sustainability, but is anything happening along that road?
ET: As far as we are concerned and as far as the logging operations in the country are concerned, there is no such thing as sustainability in forestry. So I do not know what they are talking about when they talk about sustainable forest management, because in every forest activity there is no sustainability in forest management.
DW: I think they are talking about taking the occasional tree, also plantation forestry and this sort of thing.
ET: Under the forest management agreements that has always been part of the agreements. But you know even though it has always been part of the agreement, all those actions have not been done. So you know if you talk about reforestation. So you cut down trees and you replant one or two, mostly of an original species. But you know in most of the logging cases that we have in the country there is no such thing as that. They get lands for reforestation but I don't know where the money goes for reforestation. And even, even for plantation forestry it is something that, also another thing as well when, especially like you bring in species of trees from a different area. And you try to plant it in a particular area and it obviously eventually kills out the original species of trees that are in a particular area. So there is still no point in talking about sustainability.
DW: And in terms of these ministers coming, what are the other important issues that you'd like to be on the table, on the agenda?
ET: For our case here, we are looking particularly at SABLs. Because you know, when you talk about sustainability, because I know that forest sustainability is one of the major agendas in there. Illegal loggers, fighting illegal logging is also one of the agendas on the table. And when you have five million hectares of customary land being raped and yet you can say that yes, there is sustainability in the forests. You know these, most of these loggings that are currently happening are on these SABL leases. And these leases are found to have been fraudulent. For us particularly Act Now our call is simple. And then we look at how the government is going to address this.
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