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Illegal Logging in Papua New Guinea

Rimbunan Hijau guilty

Port Moresby, October 30 2008

Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau (RH) admitted yesterday that its rights to log the vast Kamula Doso forest area in Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Western Province were awarded illegally.

The PNG Eco-Forestry Forum (EFF) challenged the allocation of the concession two years ago and has been fighting RH in PNG’s courts since.

“For two years RH has known that the concession was illegal but waited until minutes before the case was to be heard by PNG’s Supreme Court to admit its guilt,” said Sam Moko, Greenpeace Australia Pacific forests campaigner. “In those two years it has used the PNG legal system to intimidate the plaintiffs in the hope that the case would be dropped.”

Kenn Mondiai, Chairperson of the Eco-Forestry Forum called the Supreme Court decision a major victory for good governance.

“This decision demonstrates to the whole world what has been going on for far too long, and legally reaffirms the Forum’s claim of widespread illegal logging in PNG facilitated by the government and the logging industry,” he said. “This is only the tip of the iceberg and there is more to be uncovered on the unlawful acquisition of resources.”

Greenpeace believes that up to 90 per cent of all logging in PNG is illegal, mainly due to the lack of prior and informed consent by traditional landowners and the failure of the PNG Government to follow and enforce its own forestry laws. The majority of logging operations in PNG are environmentally, economically and socially unsustainable. On a recent trip around PNG the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza, documented many breaches of the logging code of practice and instances of illegal logging.

The 800,000-hectare Kamula Doso concession is the jewel in the crown of PNG’s remaining untouched tropical forest areas. Logging companies are desperate to get their hands on the concession. By not logging Kamula Dosa an estimated 36 million tons of carbon has been saved, worth at least 1 billion Euros.

“Despite the PNG Government asking for international money to protect its forests for the benefit of the global climate, illegal and destructive logging continues to be rampant in PNG,” Mr Moko said. “It will be difficult for PNG to convince donor countries that it has the capacity to monitor and enforce forest protection unless these issues are addressed adequately.”

“If Papua New Guinea wants to be taken seriously internationally when asking for carbon financing support, there must be a moratorium on the allocation of all new concessions.” Mr Moko said. “All existing concessions must be reviewed and any that are found to be in breach of forestry laws should be revoked. There should also be an immediate investigation into the serious allegations of corruption between politicians and logging companies.”

ENDS

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