Published on: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Forestry Director Datuk Sam Manan said so far 1,639 pieces of logs (3,300 cubic metre) have been produced from Tawau Hills Park and royalty paid so far, with a total forest revenue of RM340,000.
Besides from the clearing of seven thermo wells, the logs were also sourced from the development of road access and pipe construction (11km long and 40m wide) or 44 hectares.
As for the Mount Andrassy Forest Reserve occupation area portion, he said on the contrary it involved an area earlier encroached with illegal oil palm that had since been removed and the site rehabilitated by the Forestry Department at a cost of about RM5,000 per ha. "The Andrassy component has only one well (Injection Well) and involved the felling of 20 trees (19.20m3) from the road construction, which the Forestry Department had auctioned off.
"In the Andrassy area, there is minimum tree felling due to the degraded nature of the site and the planted trees being amendable to uprooting and replanting elsewhere," he said, Monday. Responding to the claims by DAP Sabah of possible illegal logging taking place at the Geothermal Power Plant project areas, Sam said it deserved an explanation as it is a subject of public interest.
However, he said a thorough investigation made by the Tawau Forestry Officer on the alleged non-compliance of laws found the allegations to be baseless, and was unnecessarily alarming the public.
"All the logs were royalty-paid, properly hammered with the required markings (property hammer mark, serial numbers, inspection hammer and royalty hammer).
"The documentation to prove legality (Timber Disposal Permits - TDPS and Removal - Passes) were also issued properly and in the possession of the developer," he said.
Nevertheless, some of the markings on the logs were obscured by "resin" bleeding after it had been resized and renumbered, he said.
Resizing was needed to shorten long logs (that have earlier been scaled/royalty paid), to accommodate road safety requirements but re-embossed accordingly, he said.
In order to denote the resizing a log, for example with serial number 1011, when sized into two shorter pieces, would have the notations: 1011A or 1011B for traceability to the mother log - Number 1011.
"During the process of sizing and re-numbering and with fresh logs, some species, such as Keruing, with their high resin (Damar) content, will "bleed" thus obscuring the markings and hammer marks," he said.The department also provided a photograph of the markings covered by the resin on the resized logs. "But when inspected closely, the required identification marks were all intact," he said.
According to him, the only significant source of logs was the development at Tawau Parks for which it is getting RM200 per cubic metre from the developer, which is clearing about 150 hectares there.
Adding on the royalties, Sam said were other mandatory timber charges and the harvesting and transportation cost components, the cost of felling, removing and disposing of the logs is approximately RM475 per cubic metre.
"The records show that on average, the logs are being sold at around RM420/m3, or at a loss.
For record purposes, the last auction of world certified FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logs from Deramakot fetched an average price of RM423.85/m3 in July 2013.
"Timber prices are now historically low going back to 2002," he said, adding that therefore, the insinuation of making money from logging as opposed to Geothermal development, does not arise since the cost of production and payment to the resource owner (Sabah Government) is extremely high.
"This is not a timber concession per se but an investment in Green Energy of some RM500m.
The 100-150 hectares of rainforest logging and the inevitable site preparation, in this day and age of depressed timber prices, can hardly ever make up or remotely support the project financially," he said.