Sunday, December 7, 2008

New Threat to Papuan Tropical Rain Forest in Manokwari West Papua

by Charles Roring
The photographs that you see below were taken in the Prafi area of Manokwari. The first photo was about the palm oil plantation that belongs to PT Perkebunan II and the second was about the logging business in the concession area of PT Medco Papua Hijau Selaras. Logging both legal and illegal has been a major threat to tropical rainforest in West Papua and Papua New Guinea. Logs taken by timber companies are sold in markets of Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and even to China. I am sad to see that day by day Papuan tropical rainforest continues to shrink rapidly. While timber companies enjoy high profit from this wood business, the indigenous people only receive very small fraction of the revenue their forest creates from logging. Actually, there is no revenue sharing in logging business in West Papua. What the indigenous people receive is tiny compensation compared to the price of wood in national and international market. Besides threat from logging, the increasing influx of migrants in West Papua creates increasing demands in wooden planks and blocks for housing material. More people mean more houses. The price of 1 cubic meter of merbau wooden blocks is around 120 US dollars in local market or even several times higher than that. This amount of money is considered high. As a result more people decide to enter the logging business. To get higher profit, they prefer to bribe the security personnel and smuggle the logs to towns late at night. By doing this they don't have to pay contribution to the forestry agency. It is not surprising to see that the illegal loggers have never faced severe punishment.  
Another threat to Papuan forest is conversion to Palm oil plantation. National companies began opening Palm or Sawit oil plantation in around 1990s in Arso area of Jayapura and in Prafi valley of Manokwari. Again very little compensation was paid to the land owners. In recent video interviews made by Kevin and Darcy from Canada, the tribal chief in Prafi expressed his regret of selling his land in very cheap price for the sawit palm plantation. He said that the local people do not get significant benefit from that business. Many return to their vegetable and sweet potato patch. Although the sawit plantation run by PTP 2 - a state owned palm oil company in Prafi Manokwari, has shown its failure, another company named Medco has entered the region and began leasing thousands of hectares of land in Manokwari only for Rp. 450,000 or 36 US dollars per hectare for 35 years. The company will enjoy millions of rupiahs from logging the huge forested land areas that is rich of natural biodiversity before converting it into monoculture sawit plantation. This does not include the possibility of selling carbon offsets once the sawit seedlings start to grow.
The pristine tropical rainforest in Sidey Manokwari will soon be jeopardized and converted into massive palm oil plantation with very little benefit to the local people. According to Cahaya Papua, a local newspaper in Manokwari, Medco has began paying 850 million rupiahs for the leasing of 1,896 hectares in Sidey of Manokwari West Papua. In 9-11 December 2008, it will pay 1.3 billion rupiahs for the leasing of 2,890 hectares in Masni of Manokwari. There will be another leasing of 280 hectares of land area in Pantura of Manokwari regency of West Papua. 
Through this posting in my blog, I appeal to Green Peace, Down To Earth and any green support groups around the world to take serious actions to prevent this pristine Papuan forest from being converted to Palm Oil Plantation. 
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