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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Mar. 6) - The Papua New Guinea National Forest Service board has given a Malaysian company the go-ahead to cut 150,000 hectares [370,658 acres]of forest in Pomio, East New Britain Province.

TZEN Niugini, a subsidiary of Malaysian logging company Cakara Alam, was awarded the timber authority (TA) and three forest clearing authorities.

The two other companies, which were given a timber authority each include Landex and Lunatham Limited.

[PIR editor’s note: According to UK-based Forests Monitor, Cakara Alam has been "dogged by controversy and is associated with poor environmental and social practices." The organization says a former forester with Cakara Alam identified a number of breaches of the management plan for operations in the West Arawe timber area. Breaches included undersized trees being marked for felling; roads constructed along the top of ridges resulting in soil erosion; failure to carry out post-logging site rehabilitation; logging on slopes above 30 degrees; and other plan violations. In February 1995, angry landholders closed off a logging area in protest at a breach of contract by Cakara Alam to build infrastructure, including an airstrip and wharf, in the West Arawe timber area, five years after logging started. ]

The signed agreements were received by TZEN Niugini managing director Peter Ling.

The company was also awarded a stand-alone agriculture project timber authority to venture into impact agricultural projects. Forest Minister Patrick Pruaitch said yesterday the Illi-Wawas timber project was an additional one apart from the 10 forestry management areas (FMA) the Government had committed to start. He said Pomio MP Paul Tiensten, who made a submission to the National Executive Council, sponsored the project.

Mr. Pruaitch said five of those impact projects had already been awarded to developers.

He said the forestry sector had to be handled in line with the laws as it became controversial.

"Forestry is a controversial sector and we have to follow all the laws," Pruaitch said.

National Forest Authority acting managing director Dike Kari said the process involved in granting the forestry clearing authority was expected to take time because they had to go through 28 requirements.

Mr. Tiensten said he was happy the green light was finally given to start on the project.

"This would also mean the road construction will start in the electorate soon," he said.

The developers will construct a 135-kilometer road linking Pomio with Kokopo.

Tiensten said the road project would cost a lot of money as the developers would need to overcome a number of obstacles including fast flowing rivers.

Mr. Kari said there was a NEC directive to start the project.

He said the officers from NFA would work with the developers to ensure PNG laws were followed when cutting down the trees. Tiensten said the Government would supply bridges for the road project.

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