Veteran politician declares war against illegal logging

Parliament – Statement February 2020

Mr. Speaker, I have one thing to say today. It is simple. It is direct. It is a matter of survival for the People of New Ireland, and for the People of Papua New Guinea.

Today I am Declaring War on Illegal Logging in New Ireland.

Why do I say this? Why do I Declare War on the Logging Companies?

I do it because they are the enemy. The enemy. Just look at what they do.

We all know that even though almost all the logging operations are approved by the National Forestry Authority, most of them are illegal. They almost never have the approval of the landowners. Fake landowner groups are set up and sign the agreements, and the Forestry Authority never checks to see if they are valid.

The companies abuse our people. They destroy our land. They destroy our rivers. They destroy our bridges and roads by using trucks that weigh two or three times the legal limit. They even hire policemen as security. So the very officers who are supposed to protect and serve our people are instead attacking our people. This is happening right now. What is the Police Minister doing about it? What are the PPCs doing about it? Nothing! In fact, they deny it is even happening. That is treason, and they should be called to account for it.

The logging companies lie. They cheat. Did you know that there are over 16 companies or conglomerates doing logging in PNG right now? And did you know that as those companies have declared a loss in the last ten years? Did you know that those companies have declared a total loss of over K42 million in the last ten years?

How can that be? How can a company – much less around sixteen and over companies – operate for 10 years making a loss and STILL BE IN BUSINESS?

The answer is simple. They lie. They lie about how many logs they cut and ship. They lie about how much it costs them to ship the logs. Since they use their own ships to transport the logs, they charge two or three times normal for freight. That means the logging company can declare a loss because of the high freight costs, but the Mother Company still makes a huge profit, because they own the ships.

It also means that none of these companies are paying tax! In fact, since they supposedly “lose” money every year they actually build up a “tax credit.” Today these companies have a combined tax credit of about K100 million. And the tax credits are good for twenty years, so even if those companies make a profit of K100m in the next twenty years, they will STILL PAY NO TAX.

All those Timber Licenses should be revoked. NOW.

And what about SABLs? These Special Agricultural Business Leases have been granted to companies who are allegedly going to clear forest to plant cash crops like palm oil. An incredible 5.5 MILLION hectares have been granted in SABLs. That is EIGHT TIMES the size of New Ireland; almost TWICE the size of the Morobe Province. It is over one-tenth of the entire country!

What really happens? Oh, the companies clear the land, all right. They cut all the trees, take all the logs and export them. But almost no plantations are planted and my Government has not agreed to expand Palm Oil.

And the SABLs are illegal. The Commission of Inquiry into SABLs in 2012 said that 70% of those SABLs were granted by the Lands Department ILLEGALLY. There was no consultation with landowners. Most of the agreements were made with individuals who said they represented the landowners, but they were simply “encouraged” to sign by the logging companies.

The Prime Minister and NEC in Decision 184/2013, said, and I quote ”NEC approves to revoke all SABLs recommended by the two Commission of Inquiry (COI) Reports.” That was over 70% of all SABLs.

It is seven years later, and what has happened? NOTHING! The logging companies are still raping our country.

This must stop NOW!!

It is time for PNG to GET SMART! I hear a lot of talk about Taking Back PNG. Well, you want to TAKE BACK PNG?! Then START with logging. STOP the illegal logging. STOP the SABLs. And look around the world to see how to run forestry.

Look at Sweden and Finland. Between them Sweden and Finland have about 450,000 sq. km. of forested land. In comparison PNG has about 400,000 sq. km. of forested land. PNG has about the same amount of forest as Finland and Sweden combined. So how do we compare in earnings to those countries?

Each year Finland makes about K38 billion from forest products. Sweden makes nearly K60 billion per year. PNG, on the other hand, makes only about K1.3 billion. So Sweden and Finland make 75 TIMES as much as PNG – WITH THE SAME AMOUNT OF FORESTED LAND!

How do they do it? The majority of forestry operations in both Sweden and Finland are small-scale operations run as family businesses. In Sweden 60% of the forestry businesses are family run. In Finland about 65% of the forestry businesses are in the hands of families.

In both Sweden and Finland NO MAJOR FOREIGN OWNED COMPANIES are involved in the logging or forestry business. All those engaged in forestry are citizens of the countries. Therefore, the benefits and profits from forestry go to the citizens of the country, not to foreigners.

And they are sustainable. They take only a small portion of the original forests, and they plant forest plantations for most of their logs. This means they will have incomes forever, not just for a few decades.

THAT is the way we must manage forestry in PNG. We cannot allow the robbery the lying, the bribery to go on. All of us must join together to stop the rape of our country.

I tell you, THIS IS WAR!! And if we do not win this war, our forests will be gone, our rivers will be polluted, our bridges will be broken, our people will be poor, and the foreign companies will be rich with billions of dollars in the bank that should have gone to our people.

They will abandon us and laugh at how they fooled those simple kanakas.

Well, I have something to say to those arrogant logging companies. Those simple kanakas are declaring war. And if there is one thing we know how to do, it is how to fight a war in the bush. In OUR bush. And it is a war we will win.

So enough talk! Enough promises!

It is time for action. It is time for War!

Revoke the SABLs. TODAY!! Kick out the foreign companies. TODAY!!

TAKE BACK PNG!!

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