| Act Now PNG | Edited Extracts
PORT MORESBY - More than 30 large-scale logging projects in Papua New Guinea appear to be operating in defiance of a court ban issued by the deputy chief justice in June 2021.
Together the logging operations accounted for 40% of PNG’s total log exports in the 12 months to June 2022.
The court order called for ‘an immediate ban’ on any logging in timber rights purchase areas until the PNG Forest Authority and other government agencies provided the court with detailed reports on all logging operations in the country.
The court order requires the PNG Forest Authority to provide a report on all logging and forest clearance operations with a detailed account of area logged, number of trees felled, environmental and social impacts, remedial action taken on environmental damage and its effectiveness, and tangible development improvements delivered for local communities.
The Conservation and Environment Protection Authority is required to provide a detailed report on all environmental permits issued for ‘each and every’ logging operation in the country and their conditions, monitoring evaluations and compliance reviews carried out, steps taken to mitigate adverse environmental impacts, breaches identified and remedial steps taken, and any prosecutions undertaken.
Similarly, the Climate Change Development Authority is required to provide a detailed report on climate change impacts of logging and deforestation activities in both logging and mining areas, environmental plans and permits, monitoring evaluations or compliance reviews, steps taken to mitigate adverse environmental impacts, breaches identified and remedial steps taken, and prosecutions undertaken.
More than 20 months later, according to sources in the National Court, the Forest Authority and other agencies have yet to produce their reports and the ban on logging is still in effect.
Yet, despite the ban, ACT NOW has identified 31 logging operations in 29 timber rights purchase areas that have exported logs since the ban was imposed.
In the 12 twelve-months after the ban, Forest Authority records show logs valued at US$120 million were exported from the timber rights purchase areas by 26 foreign owned logging companies.
The apparent breach of the court order illustrates the lack of commitment from the Forest Authority to give effect to the government's policy of winding down log exports so they stop completely by 2025.
More than 30 companies registered in PNG appear to be linked to each other and have links, through common directors and shareholders to the Sarawak (Malaysian) conglomerate WTK group.
The WTK cluster had 19 logging concessions between 1993 and 2021 and a 14% market share of all log exports in 2019-2021.
The cluster includes at least nine logging companies, seven of which exported tropical round logs from PNG in 2019-2021.
According to the groups’ website, WTK's global operations span logging, oil palm, real estate, property development, manufacturing, hotels and shipping.
The main company in the group appears to be WTK Holdings Berhad, of which Dato Sri' Patrick Haw Yeong is managing director and his father, Datuk Kie Yik Wong, a substantial shareholder.
Other important shareholders are Datuk kie Yik Wong, the chairman of the Sarawak Timber Association, and Tiong Sii Huang, a member of Sarawak's State Legislative Assembly.
Between 2019 and 2021, companies in this cluster exported 1.3 million cubic meters of round logs from 12 concessions in Madang, West Sepik (Sandaun), New Ireland, East New Britain, Milne Bay and Central provinces.
Of this, nearly 350,000 cubic meters were exported from a single concession - Amanab Blocks 1-4 in Sandaun Province.
Non-logging companies linked to the cluster appear to be focused on construction, shipping, oil palm and supermarkets.
In May 2021, a Malaysian newspaper reported that WTK Holdings Berhad stated it had no logging operation in PNG.
Act Now and Jubilee Australia wrote to WTK Holdings Berhad to seek clarification of this but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
The New Timber Barons: The companies logging the rainforests of Papua New Guinea.: A report by Act Now PNG and Jubilee Australia Research Centre