Political will to stop illegal logging in PNG questioned
Questions remain over the Papua New Guinea government's commitment to ending illegal logging despite tough words against a small logging operation alleged to have breached the law.
Questions remain over the Papua New Guinea government's commitment to ending illegal logging despite issuing a stop work order against small illegal logging operations in Oro province.
The prime minister Peter O'Neill announced that the government (for web use: Environment and Conservation Authority) issued stop work orders for two logging companies in Oro for allegedly breaching the Environment Act.
Investigations into the allegations have begun, as Mr O'Neill warned that loggers must comply with PNG's rules.
Johnny Blades has more.
The Governor of Oro province Gary Juffa has commended the government for issuing the stop work orders. But he says much more needs to be done to stop illegal logging by foreigners in PNG which remains rife and has very little benefit for locals. The government is yet to revoke around 74 Special Agricultural Business Leases which, despite being found by a commission of inquiry over two years ago to be largely fraudulent, are still in place. Mr Juffa says illegal logging also comes with proliferation of illegal immigration, gun smuggling and drug manufacturing.
GARY JUFFA: That's why we ought to kick them all out. Logging is not rocket science, anyone can do it. But you have to do it properly. You have to consider the environment. There has to be forest management plans in place. There has to be reforestation plans in place. There has to be consideration of specific species of flora and fauna and how we treat them, etc. None of these are ever considered. But now we've got to start doing that.
However, government MP, David Arore, whose electorate is Ijitivare in Oro, says the area where the companies operated is very remote but that loggers helped bring development.
DAVID ARORE: They do make connections... roads and some form of money, royalties, that they give to the locals. I guess apart from that, we can shout and scream as much as we want to but as a responsible government, what is the alternative that we have for this particular group of people? The forest people, we must have alternatives for them.
Gary Juffa dismisses this claim, saying his provincial government is offering Oro people access to agriculture projects including cocoa, coffee, rice and cattle. Meanwhile, he says the loggers in Oro have operated illegally for years and that local authorities have already investigated.
GARY JUFFA: Why would they do an investigation? The investigations have been done. We've given them reports galore. All they have to do is cancel the permits or take them to court and kick them out. Get the military, go there and seize all the machines, auction them because they have been taking out money without paying out royalties and other things. Identify the perpetrators involved. I can tell the government exactly where he is. Take that guy out and lock him up. Why can't they do that?
PNG's government recently hosted the APEC forestry ministers summit and spoke out about its efforts towards improved forestry governance and sustainability. Yet the opposition leader Don Polye says the government is dragging its feet on the cancellation of the Special Agricultural Business Leases.
DON POLYE: Most of them were not properly done and some action needs to be taken by government but it has been so delayed and that's a concern. It really does affect the livelihood of the people because that is where Papua New Guinea's future is. In the areas of agriculture and resource development, sustainable development.
Gary Juffa says the loggers ordered to stop work in Oro are just small fry. He suggests the big players behind many of the SABLS are still operating because they wield extensive influence on leading national politicians.
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