PNG groups urge China to act on illegal timber imports

5:33 pm on 14 November 2018

Papua New Guinea civil society groups have called on China to introduce regulation on illegal wood imports from the country.

A logging area in Bairaman, East New Britain, PNG

A logging area in Bairaman, East New Britain, PNG Photo: Global Witness

A letter signed by PNG groups including the Center for Environmental Law and Community Rights and ACT NOW - states that governments of PNG and China have failed to act while the country's globally significant forests are being destroyed.

PNG is China's single largest supplier of timber, however large quantities of these wood imports come from illegal operations.

The letter highlights the devastating effect of illegal logging on PNG citizens.

The President of the Lavongai Local Government in New Ireland province, John Aini, said rampant logging has brought little but misery to communities who depend on forests.

"It takes so many years for a tree to grow to a size that can be harvested. It takes only three seconds for a rotten second-hand chainsaw to cut it down. Not for our benefit, but the benefit of foreigners. All we are witnessing is misery and destruction."

For decades studies of PNG's forestry sector have identified the unsustainable rate of illegal logging without the problem really being confronted systematically by the local government.

A policy advisor with the NGO Global Witness, Lela Stanley said civil society was looking to China to lead the change.

She said other major economies have created laws to ensure timber they source abroad are produced legally and sustainable, so China's lack of regulations is now standing out.

"China is taking steps to clean up its domestic manufacturing sector and polluted environment, and positioning itself as a global leader on climate change," Ms Stanley said.

"But if it's serious about its vision of an 'ecological civilization,' it needs to ensure the raw materials like timber that it sources abroad are produced legally and sustainable."

The letter to China's President Xi Jinping comes on the eve of his arrival in PNG for this weekend's APEC leaders summit.

Xi is to hold a meeting of Pacific Islands leaders on the sidelines of the summit and is expected to announce a development package related to China's Belt and Road initiative.

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