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Broken Promises of Logging Companies

Greenpeace Exposes Broken Promises of Logging Companies and Debt Bondage

Port Moresby, 15 September 2008, Today Greenpeace released documentation of the many broken promises of logging companies in Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Gulf and Western Provinces.

A documentation team visited remote villages for two weeks, filming and photographing life and conditions within three large logging concessions owned by logging companies Turama Forest Industries (TFI), a Rimbunan Hijau group company and Rimbunan Hijau (RH).

“The overwhelming feeling relayed to Greenpeace by landowners in the
region is that both TFI and RH are stealing their resources and
exploiting their people, while the Government turns a blind eye,” said
Greenpeace forest campaigner Sam Moko. “There are also serious
questions about the legality of their operations and the process in
which logging permits were granted.”

“What we found were many social and environmental problems caused by
industrial logging, as well breaches of the PNG Logging Code of Practice
by both these companies,” Mr Moko said.

Local people tell of total disrespect from the company towards them.
Examples of this include the destruction of sacred sites, lack of
promised development, withholding royalty payments, logging too close to
villages and endangering the food supply.

Infrastructure like roads, airstrips and ports is rudimentary, for the
benefit of the logging operation, and usually falls into disrepair once
a company moves on. The schools and medical facilities do not have
materials, equipment or medicines.

The industry makes over-inflated claims about the numbers of people it
employs. Foreigners do most of the skilled work . PNG nationals are paid
a pittance for dangerous work, usually done with no safety equipment.

Payslips obtained by Greenpeace from two RH concessions, Vailala and
Wawoi Guavi, show workers working long hours for very little pay. What
money they do make goes straight back to the company in the form of
payment for food and other costs.

Many camp workers are brought in from other areas and have no local
fishing or hunting rights so must buy goods at the company canteen,
which is the only store in the area. One fortnightly payslip showed a
worker being paid K185.25 for 114 hours of work. After costs for food
were deducted he took home K5. Forestry workers are trapped in a debt
cycle with logging companies and have no option but to continue

Ken Karere, from Vailala, an RH concession, told Greenpeace, “The
workload it’s very big… You have no food. You have to go back to the
store and buy food on credit and their prices are very high. All is
recorded. So once I get paid, all that money goes towards the credit and
you’re only left with maybe K10, K15. You have to survive on that for
another two weeks but after one day that money’s finished.”

“How are people supposed to invest in their and their family’s
future on this type of wage? This is not gainful employment that
benefits PNG’s future, this is induced indebtedness verging on
slavery,” Mr Moko said. “These people work incredibly hard and are
still well below the poverty line. They don’t even have enough money
to pay to leave the area.”

Life is also not easy for landowners who live in or next to logging

Kila Oumabe from the Beseremen Clan, in the TFI-run Turama Extension,
says that it now takes much more time to find food.

“I have to walk six to eight kilometres to find food for my
family”, she says. “It takes all day. Before it used to take two
to three hours or half a day. I used to walk out my back door to find
the plants and animals to feed my family. Sometimes a woman can’t find
anything and comes home at 9 o’clock or midnight and cooks sago only
and goes to sleep.”

Lee Mara, of the Porome tribe in the Turama Extension is also concerned
that increased siltation in rivers from logging is threatening their
future ability to survive.

“Looking at the environment, much damage has been done. Our riverbeds
are already rising. We have sandbanks coming up. We are going to run
short of fish. Very soon all our fish will be gone.”

Anton David, a teacher from Omati in the Turama Extension, standing
outside a basic schoolhouse, said that TFI helped build the school but
did not provide educational materials or books.

“Without materials and teacher’s guides it’s hard for me to
teach, so I closed the school after three months,” he said.

“The PNG Forest Industries Association (PNGFIA) and Rimbunan Hijau
say that they are bringing development to these remote areas but if this
is what they have in mind, then they have a disturbing vision for
PNG’s future,” Mr Moko said.

The World Bank estimates that up to 70 per cent of logging in PNG is
illegal. Greenpeace believes the figure is as high as 90 per cent due
to the fact that many timber licences are obtained without the proper
prior and informed consent of landowners.

The ITTO diagnostic report for PNG in 2007 stated, “The government
and industry have not been able to demonstrate integrated, economically
viable, ecologically compatible and socially acceptable forest
management practices in line with the ITTO Criteria and Indicators.
Forest management is reduced to monitoring logging operations at the
expense of overall Sustainable Forest Management.”

“The PNG Government must put in place a moratorium on all logging in
PNG until all serious concerns of forest management are addressed,
including an immediate investigation into serious allegations of
corruption between politicians and logging companies,” Mr Moko said.
“Landowners are suffering while US$40 million allegedly sits in a
Singapore bank account of a senior government minister from a logging

“International Governments must urgently restrict the importation of
illegal and destructive timber into their countries,” Mr Moko said.


© Scoop Media

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