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Action Alert: Papua New Guinea: Push for Commission of Inquiry into Illegal Rainforest Logging/Oil Palm Land Grabs

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has some of the world’s largest rainforests but sadly industrial logging and oil palm are booming. “Special Agriculture and Business Leases” (SABL) covering 5.2 million hectares (12.8 million acres) have been granted 74 times by the PNG government over recent years, skirting forestry laws and allowing clearcuts of primary rainforests on customary land, for oil palm which may or may not get planted. There is huge concern that SABL leases were improperly executed and will result in large scale logging without providing agricultural development. Only an independent commission of inquiry – as promised by the acting Prime Minister and supported by local NGOs, but still not yet formally convened – can clean up PNG’s latest rainforest land grab mess.

By Forests.org, a project of EcoInternet - June 9, 2011

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Additional Background

“Special Agriculture and Business Leases” (SABL) have been misused to take control of land from local peoples, granting 99 year leasehold title over huge tracts of customary land to foreign companies. Acting Prime Minister, Sam Abal, earlier this month called for a Commission of Inquiry into the SABLs and has suspended their further issuance. Yet the forces of rainforest destruction are pushing back, led by logging giant Rimbunan Hijau of Malaysia and a deeply corrupted PNG government led still be Michael Somare. The head of PNG’s government’s environment department and forestry board, Wari Iamo, illegally granted permits to these SABL illegal logging/oil palm projects. He continues trying to derail the Commission of Inquiry – claiming they are reviewing all 74 SABLS themselves – to save himself and protect RH.

In Ecological Internet’s home province of Madang, an area totaling 112,400 hectares spanning from Bogia to Ramu was granted as an SABL in March. This joins Madang’s illegal tuna development, new Nickle mine’s ocean waste disposal, and Rimbunan Hijau’s struggling Ramu logging concession. At the same time, logging giant Rimbunan Hijau is diversifying, developing a large oil palm scheme in the Kikori plains in the Gulf Province. Please support the many PNG local organizations standing up to RH and calling for the PNG government to make good on its promise of a Commission of Inquiry into these huge land grabs. Ask Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal to immediately sign the necessary instruments to make the Commission a reality, and to declare all 74 leases already made to be invalid. And lastly ask that Wari Iamo be removed from his office immediately so his misconduct can be fully investigated.

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Lush rainforests give way to biologically impoverished oil palm
Recently cleared rainforests on New Britain island for oil palm  (link)

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