PORT MORESBY – If the government's ban on new logging permits is to be effective, it must be total, and extended to cover all types of logging consent.
Last week prime minister James Marape directed the PNG Forest Authority (PNGFA) to stop issuing new permits and permit extensions so the government can meet its 2025 deadline to end the export of unprocessed raw logs.
It is a move our community advocacy group has supported for several years, but we are cautioning that the ban must include all forms of logging consent, not just timber permits.
If the government is serious about bringing an end to unprocessed log exports then PNGFA must stop issuing all forms of logging consents.
Not just timber permits, but also new forest clearance authorities and timber licences.
In 2020, more than a quarter of all exported logs were harvested under authorities and licences.
This percentage could rise quickly if the logging industry is only prevented from accessing new permits or permit extensions.
PNGFA is has a reputation as a rogue agency that has repeatedly found a way around restraints imposed on the logging industry.
This includes ignoring deadlines for an end to log exports and avoiding sustainable harvesting targets.
While Act Now support the prime minister’s call for an end to round log exports by 2025, any ban on new logging consents and extensions must be comprehensive.
It will also require very close policing to ensure it is implemented.
In 2020, Act Now, Oakland Institute and Jubilee Australia published a major report, From Extraction to Inclusion, emphasising that the export of unprocessed natural resources was a reason why PNG’s reliance on large-scale extraction had failed to deliver promised development outcomes.
The report urged the government to refocus the economy on small-scale agricultural production and greater downstream processing.
As Mr Marape has said, the forestry sector has the potential to make a big contribution to the economy.
But for far too long successive governments have failed to ban raw log exports and moving to downstream processing.
As a nation, for decades we have missed out on jobs, investment in manufacturing and value-adding to our resources because the authorities have acted in league with the foreign owned logging industry to pillage our forests.
The ban on new forest consents and extensions must be comprehensive and implemented without any exceptions.