Monday, May 23, 2011

Agiru urges review on forest legislation

SOUTHERN Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru has called for a review of the Forestry Act to allow equity participation instead of landowners being mere royalty collectors, The National reports.

Agiru, in a series of questions to Forest Minister Timothy Bonga, called for a moratorium on issuing of new forestry and fishing licences to ensure there were enough resources available for future generations.

"The people are mere recipients of logging levy and royalties.

"Can the minister introduce amendments to the Forestry Act for landowners to become equity participants in the sector?

"In that way, landowners will participate meaningfully in the development of their resources instead of being just recipients of royalties," he said.

Bonga said a review of the Forestry Act was long overdue and promised to bring amendments to parliament for landowners to be equity partners in projects.

"We have to sit down with landowners and all other stakeholders to bring amendments that will give greater recognition to landowners and for them to become equity partners instead of royalty collectors," he said.

Agiru followed that up during grievance debate by thanking Bonga for making a commitment to review forestry laws.

"We are allowing foreigners to rape our forests and I am glad that the minister has made a commitment to revisit and bring in amendments to the forest sector to allow our people equal participation in the development of their resources," he said.

He said this must apply to the fisheries sector "where millions of kina are being squandered leaving resource owners with nothing".

Agiru, in a statement that got cheers and claps from the members on the floor and the public gallery, said customary land was "being sold away and that must be discouraged".

He said in Southern Highlands, the provincial government had made it clear that no customary land must be sold to outside interests.

Such land can be leased.

"That is the only asset our people have and I thank former lands minister Sir Puka Temu for bringing in legislations to safeguard customary land."

Agiru said the LNG project would sustain the economy over the next 30 years.

"Why don't we reserve our forest or our fish for the future?

"We should not be forever friends with our overseas development partners.

"The PNG economy will realise K130 billion in the 30-year life of the LNG project.

"Why can't we ride on the LNG money and preserve our fisheries and forest resources for the future generations?" Agiru asked.

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