PNG turns a blind eye to illegal deforestation while hosting APEC summit on… illegal logging

28.02.2018

New roads and logging in the PNG licenses in 2017. Photo: Global Witness

The government of Papua New Guinea has failed to stop forest destruction and logging in an operation declared illegal by the country’s Supreme Court, according to analysis of satellite imagery by the NGO Global Witness.

The court ruled in August 2016 that a land lease used as a pretext to clear forest in East Sepik Province was invalid, and that any associated logging and oil palm development was illegal.

It found that the logging operation violated the legal rights of indigenous communities to their land and forests by failing to gain their consent.

However, the PNG government failed to stop the logging, and in February 2017 its National Forest Board quietly granted a new forest clearance permit to the Malaysian loggers responsible, allowing them to continue cutting down the same forests.

Global Witness’ findings indicate that by the time the new permit was issued around 930 kilometres of logging roads had been built and logs valued at some $65million exported under the illegal operation.

In 2017, more than 70 kilometre of new roads were added and at least $5m of timber exported under the new permit.

Global Witness released its findings this week, to coincide with a meeting in Port Moresby, the capital of PNG, between APEC countries, to discuss efforts to tackle illegal logging.

The management of PNG’s forests is in a bizarre and chaotic state of limbo, after a government inquiry found that 50,000 square kilometres of land had been allocated to private interests through a process riddled with fraud and illegalities.

Since the finding, in 2013, the government has repeatedly promised yet failed to cancel the licenses.

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