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New Allegations Of PNG Forest Corruption Emerge

Greenpeace
New allegations of forest corruption in PNG deeply disturbing

Port Moresby, 24 September 2008: Greenpeace today expressed deep concern over allegations that the PNG National Forest Authority (PNGFA) cannot account for K100 million which has disappeared over a six-year period between 1999 and 2005.

According to a story in PNG’s Post Courier newspaper, the Auditor General’s office has been unable to conduct an audit of the PNGFA’s accounts due to insufficient accounts and documents.

“Greenpeace has been concerned for years that there is a complete lack of transparency in the dealings of the Government and the logging sector and now it appears that the government department responsible for overseeing logging in PNG can’t keep its books straight,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Forest Campaigner Dorothy Tekwie said. “The financial benefits that the industry and government say comes to PNG from logging is being squandered by incompetence, mismanagement, corruption and a serious lack of accountability.”

Industrial logging is destroying PNG’s forests, government officials responsible for enforcing PNG’s forest laws lack the capacity or resources to do so and landowners are becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of any real benefits from the forestry sector.

“The forest industry and government’s claims that there aren’t serious issues with forestry in PNG are sounding very hollow,” Ms Tekwie said. “The industry continues to operate illegally and unsustainably and yet the PNGFA is unable to do anything about it. This industry needs to be cleaned up and reformed urgently.”

The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) in a diagnostic report released last year stated: “It is believed that the narrow focus of the PNG Forests Authority on exploitation of the forest resource for the primary financial benefit of the national government presents a conflict of interest which colours decisions made by the government at all levels.”

PNG has been leading an international campaign to ‘conserve’ forests for carbon trade. However it’s reputation on forest protection is dismal. According to a report by the University of PNG, released last month, “PNG’s forests could make a significant contribution to global efforts to combat climate change … However, the current state of forest management and lack of effective governance means that PNG is a long way from being able to meaningfully participate in the carbon economy.”

“How can PNG be taken seriously internationally on its ability to properly manage the potential billions of dollars in carbon funds for forest protection, if it can’t even manage an industry that has been operating in this country for decades?” Ms Tekwie asked.

The Government must implement an immediate moratorium on the allocation of all new logging concessions and extensions. In addition there must be an independent review of all existing logging concessions, any that are found to be in breach of the forestry laws must be revoked.

This must be done to improve Papua New Guinea’s reputation as a forest manager and address the key forest carbon issues of ‘permanence’ and ‘additionality’ before they can be taken seriously for financial incentives.

PNG must be able to demonstrate that they have the capacity and willingness to monitor and enforce forest protection, the ability to monitor and independently verify emission reductions, and establish national carbon accounting, before engaging with the international community on carbon financing initiatives.

PNG must also move to develop a legal and regulatory framework for carbon trading and financing and/or Payment of Ecosystem Services that ensures protection of the rights of the customary landowners as well as requiring multi-stakeholder governance and the development of national forest carbon standards.

ENDS

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