PNG’s forest continues to decline

IN a recent two-day workshop in the scenic setting of the Kokoda Trail Motel, by the Laloki river on the Sogeri Plateau, was the most recent in a succession of workshops hosted by the Institute of National Affairs (INA) on the critical global theme, but particularly for PNG, of climate change, forest and resource management and carbon storage, through REDD+ or other payment mechanisms for environmental services (PES).

Goodwill Amos from the PNG Forest Association (PNGFA) stressed the importance of logging to PNG, stating that it contributes about K600 million on average to GDP annually, K200 million per annum in terms of tax revenue, K92 million to landowners in terms of royalties and levies, provides employment for about 8,000 people and contributes to improvement in service delivery, for example, development of transport infrastructure and social services like building schools and hospitals.

However, his presentation and the discussions highlighted the fact that the forestry sector continues to face a wide range of systemic issues. Eighty per cent of the total log harvest is exported as round wood and only 20 per cent is processed domestically. There appears no likelihood of the Government imposing an export log ban, regardless of any statements to the contrary.

The timber processing industry in PNG remains dormant, with the current export “zero tax” incentive for processed timber and the Domestic Processing Policy having little impact.

Log exports exceeded the estimated national sustainable annual allowable cut in 2011, because of logging under SABLs. Only 60,000 ha of plantation forest have been established.

Mr Amos reported that from project proposals received by the PNGFA it is obvious that some businesses are trying to use SABLs to gain access to logs.

It is must be easier for them to gain access to trees through a Forest Clearance Authority (FCA) issued for a SABL than through a Timber Permit.

A FCA permits clear felling, whereas a Timber Permit requires forest management planning and controls to ensure that harvesting is sustainable. Goodwill reported that the time required to issue a FCA is much quicker than to issue a Timber Permit, which can take 5-12 years.

Mr Amos said from these observations that the state of PNG’s forests will continue to decline under “business as usual”.

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