KUCHING, May 15 — With RM5.9 billion in foreign exchange earnings at stake, the Sarawak government cannot afford to completely and suddenly stop logging activities in the state.
Assistant Minister of Uban Planning, Land Administration and Environment Datuk Len Talif Salleh reaffirmed today the state government’s commitment to having a sustainable forest, but said taking drastic measures would disrupt the state’s socio-economic activities.
“The state government has to take a holistic approach and does not want to take drastic steps that would disrupt the socio-economic activities of the people,” he said in the state legislative assembly here.
He said the timber industry contributed to about RM5.9 billion in foreign exchange earnings through the exports of timber and timber products last year while the state government collected about RM550 million from royalty, cess and premium.
“The industry is also a major source of employment in Sarawak,” he said, adding that over 100,000 people are relying on the industry for a living.
Instead of completely stopping logging activities, Len Talif said the state government has decided to gradually phase out or reduce logging activities, especially within the natural forests.
He said this was to enable the industry to adjust itself to the new condition and situation.
Len Talif said the state government has introduced a number of steps to ensure that the industry complies with the state government’s policy on sustainable forest management.
He said the steps included strengthening the enforcement division to curb illegal logging and stopping the issuance of new logging licences.
Len Talif said the state government would also increase the areas under totally protected areas to one million hectares with the gazetting of permanent forests as national parks by 2020.