KUCHING, May 28 — Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen said illegal loggers should not be blamed for the large-scale deforestation in Sarawak, but the allegedly excessive logging concessions issued to the so-called “Big 6” timber companies.
The opposition lawmaker pointed out that at present, these timber firms have concessions to log 3,724,675 hectares of forest land, which he noted is a large area.
“Sarawak’s total land mass is 12.4 million hectares, out of which, 10 million hectares are under forests,” he added.
Out of the 10 million hectares of forest, he said one million hectares are totally protected forest areas, while four million hectares are reserved for agriculture and other uses, including oil palm plantation.
“What’s left is about five million hectares of forest for timber production. Of these five million hectares of forest for timber production, 70 per cent is already given to the six companies,” the Kota Sentosa state lawmaker said.
He said Samling Group of Companies was given the biggest concessions with 1,288,389ha, followed by RH Group of Companies (1,001,877ha), Shin Yang Group of Companies (500,904ha), Ta Ann Group of Companies (433,003ha), WTK Group of Companies (357,017ha) and KTS Group of Companies (144,485ha).
“Given the huge legitimate timber concession areas controlled by the six companies, forest areas allegedly felled by illegal loggers is just a drop in the ocean,” he said, referring to a recent operations carried out the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) against timber companies and sawmills for suspected corruption, illegal logging and deforestation in Sarawak.
MACC has frozen about RM700 million in the bank accounts of timber companies, sawmills and individuals during its integrated operation codenamed Ops Gergaji, which began on May 12.