PNG FOREST MINISTER PUSHES NEW LOGGING CONCESSION

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GREENPEACE PACIFIC Suva, Fiji Islands

NEW RELEASE Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea January 5, 1999

Greenpeace Pacific says the Government's assurances about the future of Papua New Guinea's trees and people is not good enough.

Recently Prime Minister Bill Skate said the Government is doing everything "within its laws" to protect these resources. But Greenpeace believes the enforcement of these laws is part of the problem.

Greenpeace Forests specialist Brian Brunton says there are already signs that Forest Minister is taking short cuts with the legal process. "Project Options Studies are not being done properly. There is great danger that the government will avoid the competitive tendering process mandated by the Forestry Act, and give concessions to their political mates."

Brunton also questions the US$ 35 million said to be allocated to a trust account for protection of the trees and environment. "This money will not address the question of export logging which is the main cause of forest loss in PNG. The recent increase in export logging is a direct result of tax breaks granted by the Government."

While Brunton welcomes conservation aid, he says it is too little too late. "It is like pouring funds for conservation into a bath, while export logging allows taxes, revenue and trees to rush out the plughole."

Greenpeace also repudiates the Forest Industries Association which claims tax concessions have saved the industry. "Whose industry are they talking about? The Asian loggers? The reduction in the export log tax concessions is only saving loggers' profits.

"Sustainable livelihoods and conservation in the forests can only be achieved through Papua New Guinean landowners being involved in small and medium-scale forest and conservation work," says Brunton.

For more information, contact Brian Brunton at TEL: +675 326-0560

Samantha Magick Political/Media Officer Greenpeace Pacific Level 1, Old Town Hall Victoria Parade Suva, Fiji TEL: 679 312861

FAX: 679 312784

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