|Foto The Borneo Post|
KUCHING: The Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples in the Highlands of Borneo (Formadat) can be the key community partner in safeguarding the forests from illegal logging activities, while the state government provides full support in combating illegal logging in the highlands.
In stating this, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem said the state government recognises the importance of the highlands, and with areas so vast, the government needs to work closely with alliances like Formadat to assist in protecting the forests, preserving water catchment areas and combating illegal logging.
In his speech read by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas at Formadat’s symposium yesterday, Adenan said the State had taken various initiatives in balancing economic development and nature conservation.
Among them, he mentioned, were its ongoing all-out fight against illegal logging, which if allowed unabated would lead to environmental degradation resulting in biodiversity loss, destruction of wildlife habitat and wanton deforestation.
He also said the state government was taking these measures seriously because it intends to transform Sarawak into a premier producer of certified tropical timber on par with the rest of the world.
“Since 2014, the state government has stepped up efforts to combat illegal logging in Sarawak. Illegal logging has many negative impacts on the economy, environment and society. It contributes to environmental degradation, which leads to biodiversity loss, destruction of habitats for animals and deforestation.
“Besides causing the State losses in millions of ringgit in terms of timber royalties, illegal logging damages the environment and tarnishes the State’s reputation,” he said.
Adenan pointed out that the Big Six timber companies and other long term players adhered to the stringent conditions of concession agreements and licences.
“Over the years, the companies have demonstrated their commitment towards sustainable forest practices. All these companies have duly complied with requirements.
“In strengthening the preventive and enforcement activities, the government will no longer issue any more new timber licence in state land and permanent forest estate, except under very special circumstances involving development of verified native customary rights or alienated lands,” he said.
Adenan applauded Formadat for being the only Malaysian winner of the prestigious international United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Equator Prize 2015 award, which is awarded to outstanding local and indigenous community initiatives.
He also expressed his pleasure that Formadat has initiated the first Heart of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge last year.
“This event is potential to be one of the signature events that cross through Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan.
“The state government will continue to provide support to ensure the next event in July 2017 will be a success,” he said.
On development in rural areas, he said the government would spend another RM500 million to increase connectivity in the rural areas and provide more infrastructure and amenities to the rural people this year.
“Currently, the road from Ba Kelalan to Bario that covers a distance of 21 kilometres is undertaken by the Armed Forces under its Jiwa Murni programme has entered the second phase. It is expected to be completed in March 2018.
“This will provide the gateway to conveniently travel from Bario all the way to Lawas. Not only providing travel comfort but also reducing the cost of living and enhancing economic growth,” he said.
Later, Uggah announced a grant of RM30,000 to Formadat from the state government.
Also present were Formadat advisor and State Legislative Assembly deputy speaker Dato Gerawat Gala, UNDP resident representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, Formadat Malaysia national chief Penghulu George Sigar Sultan, Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian and other community leaders.-BP