No more timber licences in Sarawak

SIBU - Following rampant smuggling, the Sarawak government has decided not to issue any more timber concession licences until the scourge stops.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem said he had to take a strong stance as it was a serious issue.

Giving an indication of the serious problem, he said RM2.95mil (S$1.1mil) worth of illegal timber was seized over the first nine months of this year. This was a 400 per cent increase over the seizures in the same period last year.

"If the government does not act tough on the matter, this activity will go out of hand and multiply," he said after opening a seminar on integrity for enforcement officers here yesterday.

Adenan added that in order to tackle the illegal activity more effectively, current timber concession licence holders were required to report to the relevant authority on any illegal activity within or outside their concession areas.

"When they seek to renew their licence or to extend the time period, we will see how much they have carried out their responsibility," the Chief Minister added.

On Sept 24, Adenan surprised many by announcing the arming of 50 Forestry Department enforcers with guns to combat illegal logging and corruption.

"I've seen it from the air. I've received reports on timber smuggling, illegal felling of trees and non-payment of royalties," he told reporters then. "Some of these have been done in broad daylight."

In another development, Adenan said the state government also intended to end the rampant theft of fresh fruit bunch (FFB) of palm oil.

It was reported that about 72,000 metric tonnes of FFB over 95,000ha of palm oil areas were stolen over the last three months. The losses, according to the current price of the commodity, were more than RM2.75mil.

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