Chinese plan for timber investment in Papua opposed

Aug 17, 2006

The Jakarta Post, 16 August 2006 Chinese plan for timber investment in Papua opposed Tb. Arie Rukmantara, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta Environmental and business groups joined hands here Tuesday in opposing a Chinese company's plan to invest in forestry in Papua, saying the project could accelerate the destruction of forests in the resource-rich province. The government is conducting a feasibility study on the plan by China Light to establish a timber processing factory in Papua. Some of the products would reportedly support the construction of facilities for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Bogor-based environmental group Telapak and the Indonesian Furniture Industry and Handicrafts Association (Asmindo) said the planned project could pose serious threats to Papua's remaining pristine forests, as well as harming the country's revenues from furniture exports. Telapak investigator Yayat Afianto said the US$1 billion scheme would further reduce the province's remaining natural forests and fuel illicit logging practices. "Indonesia and China have not yet established detailed action plans to monitor timber trading between the two countries. That poses a threat to Papua's forests," he told a media gathering here. He said the absence of such action plans would allow several timber companies accused of involvement in illegal logging to supply the Chinese company with illicitly sourced lumber, thus fueling more illegal forest destruction in Papua. Telapak's investigation found that about 300,000 cubic meters of merbau (intsia) are smuggled monthly from Papua to China. The investigation, conducted jointly with the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), found that the wood was manufactured into flooring in China and sold through scores of home improvement chain stores in Europe and the United States. Earlier in 2005, EIA and Telapak released a report asserting that more than US$1 billion worth of merbau trees were being smuggled out of Papua every year. Following the report, the government launched two operations in Papua against illegal loggers, seizing more than a half-million cubic meters of illegal wood and arresting more than a dozen foreign and local timber barons and financiers. However, all the suspects were later acquitted due to lack of evidence. Asmindo chairman Ambar Tjahyono said foreign investment would also harm furniture industries in Papua due to fears of vanishing local raw materials. "We oppose any move to allow the Chinese investor into Papua, not only because China's timber demand is fueling illegal logging, but also because it would hurt domestic firms," he said. The Chinese government denied it was plundering the world's rain forests, including Papua's, to meet its booming demand for wood, calling the allegations groundless. "The Chinese government consistently upholds and practices collective international responsibility, opposing and cracking down on illegal logging and illegal wood imports," China's State Forestry Administration spokesman Cao Qingyao said as quoted by AFP. "We have very strict import controls," he added. The EIA-Telapak investigation found that illicit Papuan timber was first sent to Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong or Papua New Guinea to conceal its origins. Indonesian Forestry Ministry director general for forestry production Hadi S. Pasaribu said the government was still examining the feasibility of the Chinese firm's proposal. "As long as the company conforms to our regulations, we have no objection," he told the Post. He said the company would not only establish a timber estate and flooring factory, but would also buy 400,000 cubic meters of timber from Indonesia to support the construction of facilities for the 2008 Olympics. *********************************************************************** Watch Indonesia! e.V. Tel./Fax +49-30-698 179 38 Planufer 92 d e-mail: watchindonesia@snafu.de 10967 Berlin http://home.snafu.de/watchin Konto: 2127 101 Postbank Berlin (BLZ 100 100 10) IBAN: DE96 1001 0010 0002 1271 01, BIC/SWIFT: PBNKDEFF Watch Indonesia! e.V. ist als gemeinnützig und besonders förderungswürdig anerkannt.