PUTRAJAYA, Aug 8 — The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (KeTSA) through the Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia is preparing a public inquiry standard operating procedure (SOP) for the process of withdrawing permanent forest reserve (HSK) land status.

Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said this comes following the approval of the National Forestry (Amendment) Bill 2022 by the Senate today.

The bill was approved in the Dewan Rakyat on July 18.

Takiyuddin said the SOP outlines the methods and processes that must be followed in an inquiry on the withdrawal of HSK land status in Peninsular Malaysia.

“When completed, the SOP will be tabled for approval by the National Land Council,” he said in a statement today.

“It is hoped that the public inquiry that will be carried out later will give a positive image of the state governments and the country, where the gazette on the status withdrawal is the last option after due diligence has been carried out by the state government,” he said.

Takiyuddin said in principle, KeTSA does not encourage the cancellation or degazettement of HSK land areas.

In certain circumstances, if an area of land must be taken out for economic purposes, he said the state authorities should conduct a public inquiry according to the set rules.

Takiyuddin said the National Forestry (Amendment) Bill 2022 that was passed proved the government’s commitment to ensuring that forest areas that are important ecosystems for the country’s biological diversity are protected accordingly.

“I hope that the state governments will give their support by adopting the entire bill as the governing law in their respective states. It also reflects our seriousness as a country that is responsible for preserving and protecting forests,” he said.

He said efforts to improve the National Forestry Act 1984 (Act 313) started since 2009, which was 13 years ago, and this is the second amendment to Act 313 after the first was made in 1993.

In general, the amendment this time aims to control the process of degazetting and replacement of HSK as well as strengthening forest enforcement to combat the cutting of trees without permission.

In addition, it is also to increase the rate of fines and penalties and impose additional punishment to curb activities that damage the environment, overcome the issue of ambiguity and unclear roles and responsibilities as well as improve the framework for sustainable forest management. — Bernama