PNG TIMBER PROJECTS ON WRONG TRACK: GREENPEACE

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GREENPEACE PACIFIC Suva, Fiji Islands

News Release January 19, 1999 Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea and Sydney, Australia

Greenpeace rejects the (Papua New Guinea) Forest Minister's justification for his letter to the Provincial Forest Management Committees, which called on them to quickly find developers for timber projects.

Peter Arul says he has been pressured by landowners groups in certain areas to speed up projects.

But the people of Managalas Plateau and now the Maisin of Collingwood Bay say this is wrong. Landowners in both areas have already established successful alternatives to logging and rejected large scale logging in their areas. Yet the Minister's letter seems to have resulted in new pressure to develop FMA's (Forestry Management Areas) on their customary land.

Greenpeace's Benedict Southworth says the push by Arul is not in the national or landowners' interests.

"The pattern is clear. The loggers have successfully lobbied the (Prime Minister Bill) Skate government and effectively reduced the export log tax to zero. The logs are now flowing out of the country with no income coming in and landowners are stuck with a depreciated ten kina a cubic meter royalty. Now the loggers are putting the pressure on for more logging concessions."

Greenpeace also believes Mr. Arul's letter contains an unlawful threat as the National Executive Council (NEC) has no power under the Act to approve a timber permit, unless it endorses a decision of the National Forest Board and a Provincial Forest Management Committee. The law does not allow the NEC to substitute its own decision in the absence of one by the board or committees.

"We call on the Government to follow the right legal processes when considering forest concessions for the protection of landowners and the forest environment" says Southworth.

For more details call: Brian Brunton at 675- 3260560 Samantha Magick at 679-312861

Samantha Magick Political/Media Officer Greenpeace Pacific

Level 1, Old Town Hall

Victoria Parade Suva Fiji

Ph: 679 312861 Fx: 679 312784

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