Cablegate: Heart of Borneo Trilat Starts to Coordinate Rain Forest

DE RUEHBD #0228/01 2110728
R 300728Z JUL 07






E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (SBU) The Government of Brunei hosted a trilateral Heart of
Borneo (HoB) meeting at which Indonesian and Malaysian
representatives agreed to an 11 point action plan (ref A) to begin
stitching together national plans into a coherent strategy for
conserving Borneo's remaining primary rain forest. Brunei tabled an
offer to host and fund an HOB Secretariat for the first three years
but its HoB partners did not concur, and so further work defining
coordination tasks will be needed for the three countries to reach
consensus on establishing a central coordination point. Brunei will
seek a compromise way forward and continue to aggressively develop
and implement its own HoB plans. Corporate and institutional donors
are beginning to join the USG and European governments in supporting
the HoB Initiative. The USG should consider how we can support next
steps - including the concept of a matching fund to support recovery
of degraded or destroyed rainforest - now that the HoB initiative is
gaining momentum. END SUMMARY.

Compromise Action Plan

2. (SBU) Brunei hosted a trilateral meeting on July 19 with Heart of
Borneo (HoB) Initiative action officers from Malaysia and Indonesia.
The goal of the meeting, chaired by Brunei's Deputy Minister of
Industry and Primary Resources Dato Hamdillah Wahab, was to follow
up the political-level agreement among the three governments that
exercise sovereignty on the island of Borneo by hammering out the
framework of a strategic implementation plan for the HoB to
coordinate national level strategic plans. Brunei hoped to have an
agreed document ready for approval at the next BIMP-EAGA
(Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East-ASEAN Growth Area)
Senior Officials meeting in November.

3. (SBU) The delegates clearly had different expectations for this
event. The Indonesian delegation came with a proposed terms of
reference document that was essentially a re-draft of the February
HoB Declaration. The Malaysian delegation, led by Sarawak state
officials, was less interested in statements and strategic plans and
more interested in discussing the specifics of proposed joint
projects. Representatives of ERE Consulting Group, the firm hired
by Brunei to help develop its strategic plan, told DCM that the
differing levels of preparation for this meeting were due partly to
long-standing, historical preferences of Sarawak to seek its own
path rather than to blindly follow program mandates from Kuala
Lumpur. They further explained that of the six political
jurisdictions on Borneo covered by the HoB (Brunei, the Malaysian
states of Sabah and Sarawak, and the three Indonesian states),
Brunei was furthest along in developing its own strategic plan and
thus more ready to talk about coordination. Sarawak, they added,
was the furthest behind in HoB planning.

4. (SBU) The resulting concluding document from the meeting (ref A)
- the work of ERE partner and retired WWF Malaysia Executive
Director Datuk Mikaail Kavanagh - only calls for each country to
develop National Project Documents as soon as possible, with a
target date for completing individual National Plans to be set at
the next BIMP-EAGA meeting. The group did agree that future
meetings and seminars would be held to focus on best forestry
practices, tourism development, and understanding the scientific
value of biodiversity.

HOB Secretariat - Brunei offers Cash & Space

5. (SBU) Brunei's signature initiative for the conference was an
offer to provide office space and three years of funding for a
Secretariat for the HoB. That was a last-minute improvement on the

offer of partial funding that Brunei had planned to make (ref B),
probably in an attempt to sweeten the pot even further once
Indonesian and Malaysian resistance to placing an HoB Secretariat in
Brunei became evident. In pitching the proposal, Dato Hamdillah
explained that Brunei wanted the Secretariat to be self-funded -
primarily through donations - but that the GoB would fund the start
up and cover the bulk of any donation short falls for another two

BANDAR SER 00000228 002 OF 003

years after the initial three year period.

Indonesia & Malaysia have Different Visions

6. (SBU) In response to the Bruneian proposal, Indonesia offered to
host the first two years of a rotating secretariat. Malaysia
preferred not to have any permanent secretariat. Malaysian head of
delegation Dr. Penguang Manggil, Controller of Environmental Quality
on the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board, told us that
there were already too many secretariats and meetings and that he
preferred to just get on with the work that underlies the HoB
initiative. In that vein, Malaysia offered to organize a joint
scientific expedition into the HoB region - to be held on June 2008
in the Sarawak region. Given the differing views, no agreement
could be reached on establishing a secretariat and the trilateral
meeting deferred consideration of the issue. To help build a future
consensus, Datuk Kavanagh offered to take the first step of drafting
a document outlining what an HoB coordinating body would do.

Way Forward

7. (SBU) In a later conversation with Ambassador, Dato Hamdillah
tried to put the best possible interpretation on the meeting,
insisting that solid progress had been made and drawing a
distinction between an "HOB Secretariat" and "HOB Center." He said
that there was agreement in principle that some form of secretariat
had to be established, if only as a kind of central clearinghouse
and repository for the plans and reports done by each of the three
HOB partners. However, no such agreement had been reached on an HOB
Center, which is loosely conceived as a focal point for publicizing,
monitoring, and researching progress on the HOB initiative.
Hamdillah said Brunei still believed the establishment of an HOB
Center was a worthwhile project, and saw two options for a way
forward: first, continue working on Malaysia and Indonesia to agree
to establishment of such a center; or, as a second best solution,
proceed to set up such a center as a unilateral undertaking and hope
that the other two HOB partners would join in later. He indicated
that Brunei planned to pursue the first option over the next several
months before moving onto the second if that proved necessary.

HoB Securing More Assistance

8. (SBU) Hamdillah said Brunei would have its HOB implementation
roadmap done by the end of 2007. At the trilateral meeting, Brunei
Shell Petroleum signed an agreement to provide B$ 204,000 (approx
USDOLS 135,000) to help develop Brunei's plan. In addition to the
Brunei Shell donation to HOB, representatives of the French oil
company Total told us that they too were looking at a donation to
the HOB since the company was active in all three HOB countries.
Donations to projects in Brunei would be made through Total's Brunei
subsidiary, and in other parts of Borneo via the Total corporate
foundation based in Paris.

9. (SBU) As host of the trilateral meeting, Brunei took steps to
signal that the HoB partners appreciated the support the HoB has
received from donor governments to date and intended to provide them
with transparency into HoB implementation. The U.S. and French
Ambassadors and British Charge d'Affaires all accepted Dato
Hamdillah's invitation to sit with him at the Bruneian delegation's
table during the trilateral's opening session, and their deputies
were welcomed subsequent sessions (the USG and HMG have already
donated to HoB, and the French Ambassador is encouraging the
aforementioned donation from Total). Also, the Asia Development
Bank was invited to the meeting by Brunei, and committed to a
fact-finding mission in support of possible technical assistance to
the HoB area. ADB regional specialist Jacques Ferreira told us that
ADB was looking at an initial project of up to USD 500,000 depending
on the findings of the mission.

Comment: Next USG Steps?

10. (SBU) Now that the USG seed funds have sprouted an increasingly
viable project, we should begin to look at how we can move toward

BANDAR SER 00000228 003 OF 003

program support that yields tangible, measurable results on the
ground. Post is already working with Embassies Jakarta and Kuala
Lumpur and the Department on a regional international visitor
program in FY-08 to bring key HoB implementors to the U.S. to study
how we manage cross-border national parks and environmental regions.
One possible further step would be to create a matching fund --
along the lines of matching funds used for humanitarian landmine
removal -- to leverage private donations for rainforest
rehabilitation. In Brunei, private citizens, schools, and
corporations have seized on an initiative organized by one of the
international schools to plant one million trees in Borneo to help
restore degraded rainforest areas. Already funds have been raised
to support initial plantings in the Sabah region of Malaysia. A USG
matching fund would be a high profile way to support the HoB while
encouraging local ownership of a project with potentially global
environmental impact.


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