LETTER TO EDITOR 14 February 2019
SAM has recently received reports from the Penan community of Kampung Batu Bungan in Mulu, Sarawak that in January this year, road construction for an oil palm plantation began to encroach on their customary territory, which is adjacent to the Gunung Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Area. In response, the community had set up a blockade and lodged a police report in Marudi to halt the encroachment. However, the blockade was then reportedly dismantled by the road construction workers.
In September last year, the federal Minister of Plantation Industries announced that the new government will not allow any more expansion of oil palm plantations in the country in its effort to ensure that Malaysia maintains a 50 per cent forest cover. By December, Sarawak was also reported to be committed to this. Although we applaud this move, as the Kampung Batu Bungan case shows, there are still many unresolved issues surrounding the matter.
According to the Sarawak Forests Department, under its Licence for Planted Forests (LPF) system, 43 timber tree plantation licences have been issued over 2.8 million hectares. These licences are located on both the reserved permanent forest estates as well as non-reserved stateland forests. Some of the licences are also allowed to devote not more than 20 per cent of their concession areas for the cultivation of oil palm. Plantable areas are estimated to be at 1.3 million hectares and 285,520 hectares for timber trees and oil palm, respectively. As of December 2013, 325,314 hectares and 146,578 hectares have been planted with timber trees and oil palm, respectively.Read more