Govt must act on continued abuse of Forest Clearance Authorities

The government must act to stop the ongoing abuse of agricultural clearing permits which are being used as a cover for large-scale selective logging.

Forest Clearing Authorities are being routinely misused to facilitate large-scale illegal and unsustainable logging. They are supposed to be used to authorise the clearing of small discrete areas of forest for agriculture planting but this concession type is now responsible for the largest share of PNG’s log exports, according to government statistics.

 A moratorium on new FCA projects imposed by the National Forest Board in 2022 has been ignored and a supposed audit of existing projects has been conducted behind closed doors. 

The PNG Forest Authority is either incapable or unwilling to properly implement and enforce our forestry laws and the government must step in and order a full and transparent public inquiry. 

The call comes as ACT NOW! releases the third report in its series examining individual FCA concessions. The report looks at the Wasu Cattle Farm project in Morobe Province and raises serious questions about the project’s legality.

In particular, the new report highlights:

  • Allegations by customary landowners they did not give their legally-required consent to the project;
  • The absence of any evidence that the logging company has established a cattle farm in the area, despite exporting logs valued at over K15 million since 2021; and
  • Evidence from satellite imagery showing a logging pattern more consistent with commercial selective logging than forest clearance for agriculture.

The investigation into the Wasu project adds to the findings of ACT NOW!’s previous reports on misuse of FCAs, which looked into the Wammy Project in West Sepik and the Mengen Project in East New Britain. Both reports revealed similar evidence pointing to the abuse of the FCA system.

ACT NOW! is calling on the government to undertake an independent, public and transparent audit of all existing FCAs. Until this is done, log exports from FCAs should be suspended.”

ACT NOW also wants to see an urgent review of the Wasu Cattle Farm project to assess whether it is operating legally.

In December of last year, a group of donors, led by France and the European Union, announced a US$100 million package of funding to Papua New Guinea for forest protection initiatives including improving governance of the forestry sector and stopping deforestation and forest degradation.

We know that illegal and unsustainable logging is a major driver of forest loss in Papua New Guinea. World leaders have made bold statements about the importance of our forests for global carbon stocks and biodiversity and committed millions of dollars to protect them. Stopping the abuse of FCAs should be at the top of the agenda for the Government of PNG and our international partners.”