The Borneo Post

Timber harvesting reduced to about 2 mln cubic metres per year — SFD

Marilyn Ten

KUCHING: Sarawak has reduced its timber harvesting operations to approximately two million cubic metres per year to balance the need for environmental conservation and economic considerations, said Datu Hamden Mohammad.

The Sarawak Forest Department (SFD) director said this is carried out with strict requirements on forest management certification for both natural and planted forests.

“We currently have 25 certified natural forests covering over 2.2 million hectares, as well as seven certified forest plantations covering approximately 97,000 hectares,” he told participants at the opening ceremony of the International Conference on Sustainable Management of Tropical Forests, here yesterday.

He said numerous efforts had been implemented to improve and refine the implementation of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) in Sarawak over the years.

“The Sarawak government strongly believes that the ‘economically viable, environmentally sound and socially acceptable’ and advocating responsible forestry practices is extremely important to show the government’s commitment to maintain and enhance the best management practices.

“Sarawak’s forest policy has undergone substantial reform, placing increased importance on environmental protection and the sustainable management of forest resources,” he said.

Hamden added that in 2022, the state amended the Forest Ordinance 2015 to incorporate provisions related to amenity forests and to regulate the implementation of forest carbon activities, including its trading.

In this regard, he assured that SFD would continue to engage with relevant stakeholders towards achieving the SFM goals.

“We will enhance and provide support in capacity building, leverage on up-to-date technology application in forest management, and intensify research and development to support decision making, and facilitate and support the timber industry in Sarawak in SFM.

“SFM is not merely an environmental agenda. It is an economic imperative, a social responsibility, and a commitment to the well-being of our planet,” he said.

On a related subject, Hamden said SFD had partnered with the Sarawak Timber Association (STA) to develop seven handbooks on Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) aimed at aiding onground personnel in effectively implementing RIL practices.

“These handbooks are adaptations of the harmonised RIL Guidelines for Ground-based Timber Harvesting in Sarawak, which was jointly developed with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.

“The guideline marks a significant stride towards standardising timber harvesting practices and enhancing regulation within Sarawak’s timber industry.

“The FAO has affirmed that the guideline adheres to international best practices, not only in its content but also in terms of stakeholder engagement and participation in its refinement,” he said.

Hamden later launched the RIL handbooks alongside STA chairman Dato Henry Lau at the event.

The conference was also attended by WWF-Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, ITTO executive director Sheam Satkuru, and STA chief executive officer Annie Ting.

The Sarawak Timber Association (STA) is appealing to the authorities and policymakers to give full and continuous support to timber industry players who have made great sacrifices to ensure that their forest management units (FMUs) are certified for forest management certification (FMC).

Its chairman Dato Henry Lau said this can be accomplished through the provision of transparent, consistent, sustainable and stable longterm policies, particularly those concerning government regulations and taxes, licensing as well as its associated sustainable long-term tenure.

“Such attributes will undoubtedly instil confidence in the timber industry, which is crucial for fostering its continued growth and propelling the industry’s commitment to implementing Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) practices and long-term environmental goals,”he said at the opening ceremony of the International Conference on Sustainable Management of Tropical Forests, here yesterday.

Lau said under STA, 24 FMUs and seven forest plantation management units, covering a total area of 2.16 million hectares, have attained the FMC status and proudly hold certification under the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme which is endorsed by the internationallyrecognised Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

“As a timber-stewarding institution in Sarawak, the inherent mission of STA is to promote SFM and forest conservation.

“STA has committed significant efforts to promote sustainable practices and responsible resource management, aiming to ensure the well-being of our forests in the long term,” he said.

However, he noted that the industry cannot be expected to deliver protective covenants that change policies and deviate from established principles.

“After all, must timber players be the only ones to bear the burden of SFM?

“Shouldn’t non-governmental organisations (NGOs), governments of consumer and producer countries and other stakeholders in the economic, social and environmental sectors all be required to achieve sustainability certification in their principles, policies, governance and methods of operations?”

He pointed out that despite achieving FMC, the timber industry continued to face unjust vilification, often painted as being solely driven by economic motives and accused of neglecting broader concerns.

“This oversimplified narrative tends to implicate all timber industry players whenever illegal activities occur, and unfairly overlooking those who operate responsibly.

“Such sweeping generalisations carry significant consequences, tarnishing the reputation of conscientious players,” he said.

Lau stated that finding support can be a formidable challenge for timber industry players who are committed to timber harvesting on a sustainable basis while maintaining a balanced focus on economic, social, and environmental well-being.

“On the contrary, suggestions have been put forward for a ban on commercial timber harvesting, but this is an unrealistic proposal because the forest stands the risk of being converted into alternative land uses if it does not provide economic value.

“A balanced understanding of the timber industry is therefore essential as the solution to the problem lies in recognising responsible practices and the promotion of sustainable forest management, ensuring a sustainable future for both the timber sector and our ecosystems,” he said.

Lau said another challenge faced by timber industry players was ensuring compliance with various timber legislations enforced by consumer countries.

“Inconsistent definitions, regulations and requirements of these consumer countries not only erect trade barriers, but also sow confusion and inconsistencies in international cooperation efforts.

“This complex regulatory landscape, compounded by the need for additional resources and capacity building, significantly amplifies the cost burden on timber-producing countries. These challenges, while paramount, are just a fraction of the complexities faced by the timber industry in the global arena.”

On the conference, Lau said at its core, the event underscored the paramount importance of SFM in shaping good governance, environmental conservation and social responsibility.

“In addition to recognising the significance of inclusive decision-making, the conference also emphasises the key role of transparent consultations.

“This approach ensures a balanced and mutually-beneficial outcome for all stakeholders, including government bodies, international partners, environmentalists, social advocates, NGOs, the timber industry and media entities.

“The overarching goal is to foster a collaborative and forward-thinking atmosphere, where pragmatic measures are integrated into the fabric of sustainable forest management practices, thus setting the stage for a resilient and harmonious future,” he said.

Lau added that the conference aims to explore diverse financing options that support the implementation of SFM practices.

“Our goal is to explore effective strategies for designating more permanent forests with sustainable tenure supported by transparency and good governance in licensing and reporting, while simultaneously catalysing actionable solutions towards achieving a globally accredited timber supply chain characterised by legality and sustainability,” he added.

He hoped that the conference would yield effective strategies and actionable solutions to navigate challenges and pave the way for a more sustainable future for both the timber industry and the invaluable tropical forests.

“On behalf of STA, I would like to highlight our appreciation to the Sarawak Forest Department and the Sarawak government under the capable leadership of our beloved Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, WWF-Malaysia, and the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) for your stewardship in making this conference a meaningful one,” he said.

Also present were Sarawak Forest Department director Datu Hamden Mohammad, who later launched the Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) handbooks alongside Lau.

Other attendees were WWFMalaysia chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, ITTO executive director Sheam Satkuru, STA chief executive officer Annie Ting and Sarawak Forestry Corporation deputy chief executive officer (Conservation) Dr Melvin Gumal.

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