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More than US$1 bn worth of logs exported from PNG

Non-profit Global Witness says that since 2009, more than 6.3 million cubic metres of rainforest logs worth over US$1 billion have been exported from PNG under land leases called Special Agriculture and Business Leases (SABLs).
It noted that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Lands and Physical Planning Minister Benny Allen had recently stated that all SABLs were illegal and had been cancelled.
“While this raises serious questions about the legal status of leases, the government does not appear to have followed through on these statements, and logs continue to be cut and exported under SABLs,” the watchdog said.
About 85-90 percent of the logs cut under SABLs have gone to China, with the remainder going to other Asian countries including India, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam.

In August last year, a landmark supreme court decision found a major log-exporting SABL to be illegal because it violated the customary land rights of landowners in West New Britain.
Global Witness found that at least six shipments of logs cut under this SABL were exported to China after the decision, highlighting the failure of the PNG government to enforce its own laws. In total, more than 660,000 cubic meters of logs worth US$65 million have been exported from this illegal operation since 2010, with 95 percent going to China.

Global Witness investigations into six SABLs between 2014 and 2016 found that many landowners say they did not consent to their land being included in the lease area. This is consistent with the 2013 conclusions of an official government inquiry that found systemic violations of laws intended to protect land rights and recommended revoking most of the SABLs it reviewed.
SABLs involve the clearance of tropical rainforest – much of it intact – that is of critical importance to the livelihoods and cultures of indigenous communities and to global efforts to preserve biodiversity.

Villagers interviewed by Global Witness said the loss of land and forests due to SABL operations is having serious negative impacts, including reduced access to food and clean water.
Roughly one in ten tropical logs imported by China in recent years came from SABLs. Most of the largest Chinese importers of logs from PNG bought logs cut under SABLs. The two largest buyers, Ningbo ND Import Co Ltd and Export and Ningbo Yongli Lumber Co Ltd bought at least 20 percent of all logs cut under SABLs and invested directly in logging operations.
PNG’s most commonly exported species, taun, is mainly used by the Chinese flooring industry. The majority of taun flooring is sold domestically in China, but significant quantities are exported to the US. An estimated 20 percent of the taun on Chinese markets came from SABLs. Logs from SABLs were commonly observed at facilities in the flooring manufacturing hub of Nanxun in Zheijiang province.
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