Archive for October, 2010

United States denies support for ‘super hospital’

October 31, 2010 Leave a comment

The Post Courier newspaper says the United States Embassy in Port Moresby has denied the US government will be funding the proposed Pacific Medical Centre, which is to be built outside Port Moresby.

When Health Minister Sasa Zibe announced Papua New Guinea government’s plans to build the K500 million ‘super hospital’ he claimed the project would be financed by overseas donor’s, principally from the United States. But those donors have all denied involvement in the project and now the US government has made clear it will not be bank-rolling the private hospital plan.

Meanwhile PNG’s Ambassador to the United States, Evan Paki’s assertions that the PMC concept is supported by Bill Clinton were proved to be false when former US President failed to make a promised announcement of funding at his recent Global Initiative meeting in New York.

Health Minister Sasa Zibe has also been exposed for misleading the public over the financing plans for the luxurious private hospital.

Zibe’s claims that no money would be diverted from funding for PNG’s dilapidated public hospital system were disproved when confidential documents surfaced showing Zibe had put a proposal to the National Executive Council that K230 million in loan funding from the Chinese government was to be diverted from support for public hospitals to part fund the PMC.

The PNG government has already provided K20 million from the public purse to support the PMC project. No details have been provided of how these monies have been spent.

The PMC project if opposed by most health professionals in PNG who say the hospital will only benefit a privileged few and the monies would be better spent on improving regional hospitals and rural health facilities that serve the majority of the population.


Villagers angry about forest allocations

October 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Villagers in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province are angry their government has allocated more than a million hectares of pristine forest for “special agricultural leases” – which they describe as a land grab for logging.

At a landowner meeting in Kiunga, Western Province this week, hundreds of disgruntled villagers said their land had been given away without any informed consent or notification.

Western Province now has half of PNG’s allocated 4.3 million hectares of “Special Purpose Agricultural and Business Leases”, after the government gazetted Tosigiba Timber group and North East Timber 1.25 million hectares on September 23 this year.

Last year, the government allocated 853,420ha to companies in the Western Province for special leases in areas such as the contentious Kamula Doso forest that has a court order preventing any forestry activity.

PNG’s build-up of “special leases” has enraged green groups, NGOs and numerous government officials concerned that PNG’s forests are under threat by oil palm or “logging by stealth”.

Western Province’s North Fly MP Boka Kondra, who addressed the landowners on Wednesday, says it is a grave concern.

“They are giving away the land but we don’t know what the future use is or the implications,” he said.

“It is a surprise to see this, I will talk to the ministers concerned to find a possible solution because a lot of people on their land will see this as taking it away.”

Western Province Land and Resource Owner federation Chairman, Paul Katut, said landowners had been duped.

“Its unprecedented the government gives one million hectares,” he said.

“We have members of the companies here that all say they didn’t agree to the deal.”

PNG’s Lands Department grants the “special leases” to companies to build, for example, oil palm farms, but in the past unscrupulous players have used the leases to bypass laws and cut down the forest, export the logs, and then leave.

Greenpeace forest and climate campaigner Paul Winn said increasing special leases was another example of PNG’s disregard for its purported climate change policy and indigenous people’s rights.

“These leases will never result in agricultural benefits to PNG they are just a way of sidestepping the logging laws,” he said.

PNG Agriculture Minister John Hickey and the Lands Department have refused to comment.

Scrap plans to build PMC

October 29, 2010 2 comments

By Jujito Tubana

THE plan to build the Pacific Medical Centre is a waste of taxpayers’ money. As such, it should be withdrawn immediately.

My question is simple: “Why spend so much money to build this facility when all the main hospitals, rural health centres and aid posts do not have medicine or lack supply?

The Port Moresby General Hospital, the nation’s largest hospital, does not have the following:

  1. A properly equipped labour ward for expecting mothers;
  2. The emergency ward is a death trap as there are inadequate emergency facilities;
  3. There are not enough doctors and nurse on standby; and
  4. Many patients have died while waiting to be served.

We have to improve our current primary health care facilities before wasting money on such a facility which will only be used by politicians, businessmen, corporate clients and the rich.

Why build a state-of-the-art hospital when the majority of the population cannot afford to pay private clinic fees?

That money should rather be spent to improve and upgrade all major hospitals in PNG and improve rural health services.

Spotlight with NRI: Why the super hospital is a bad idea

October 28, 2010 3 comments

The truth about Papua New Guinea’s carbon trade

October 28, 2010 3 comments

The Prime Minister  of Papua New Guinea stated in The National (11th October 2010) that the REDD+ approach that is being championed by his government is being undermined by the trading of forest carbon through the voluntary carbon schemes (VCS) in PNG.

He describes VCS as being risky and premature.

But how much truth is in what the PM said is anybody’s guess. The PM does not elaborate on the risks involved in the VCS, but the only cheap excuse given is that the VCS are thinly capitalised. The advantages of the VCS over a compliance forest carbon market are not discussed by the PM.

Moreover, the PM failed to admit that REDD markets for forest carbon exists under some VCS, but a compliance market for forest carbon does not exist at the moment and the likelihood of a world market for forest carbon through the REDD+ scheme is far from reality.

The sad fact is that countries in South America, Asia and Africa have gone into VCS, while we are the only ones that are still fighting to engage in a compliance market for forest carbon, which does not exist or is yet to materialise.

Therefore, one wonders why the PM, PNG’s climate change ambassador and the acting director of Office of Climate Change and Development (OCCD) are all hell-bent on a REDD+ carbon scheme under the compliance market.

The reason why the OCCD, the PM and our climate change ambassador are globe trotting on climate change and carbon trade issues is that they want some of that $4.5 billion (US) that has been earmarked for REDD+ projects in developing countries.

So far our negotiations have failed two times to access any international funding because PNG does not want any strings attached to these REDD+ funds.

However, the international community is aware of what is going on in developing countries and will not release any funds until stringent measures are put place by respective governments to protect the rights of indigenous peoples and their forest resources from carbon cowboys.

Earlier this year, the PNGexposed Blog published an article that accused the PNG government of trying to be the “ultimate carbon cowboy”.

Nupan Trading was in the spotlight and was seen as being the culprit in carbon trade deals in PNG, but the PNGexposed Blog article also put the PNG government in the spotlight.

This article has been widely read and circulated over the internet and there are now more suspicions about the PNG government’s moves to have customary landowners snub the VCS.

It makes one wonder whether the moves taken by the PNG government are genuine in reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation of forests and ultimately combating climate change, or, is the PNG government trying to blackmail the international community into giving us funds so that we can put them in our pockets; let alone pay for political stability to protect the so-called “national interest”.

At the moment VCS are legal in a sense that it is a business deal that can be struck between a customary land owing group and a carbon broker.

The government has no control over customary lands therefore it cannot decide which carbon market the customary landowners chose to trade their forest carbon.

However, the OCCD, as the mandated authority on climate change and carbon trade issues in PNG, can facilitate carbon trade business deals between customary landowners and carbon dealers under the VCS.

The only problem with carbon dealers in the VCS is the issue of “carbon cowboys”, but this problem should be addressed by the OCCD.

The OCCD should check on any carbon dealer’s records and give appropriate advice to customary landowners on the authenticity of the carbon dealer and whether his business interest is genuine and has integrity.

However, to date the OCCD has refused to have anything to do with VCS or issue carbon certificates.

The reasons given by OCCD for not recognising VCS in PNG and not issuing carbon certificates to Nupan Trading and other carbon dealers is the same as that given above by the PM.

Regardless of the reasons given by the PM and OCCD about VCS in PNG, these are business deals like any forestry and mining business deals and OCCD will have to cater for that.

But the position taken so far by OCCD and the PNG Government to snub VCS indicates that there is something fishy going on in terms of carbon trade in PNG, and it goes to cement the suspicion that the PNG Government wants to be the “ultimate carbon cowboy”.

One reason why the government wants customary landowners to snub the VCS is that it wants to keep all carbon credits from REDD+ for its own interest so that it becomes the one and only carbon broker in PNG.

Therefore, if the OCCD facilitates business deals between customary landowners and the VCS and much of the forest areas in PNG are registered under the VCS, there will be few or no forest areas left for the PNG government when an international agreement is reached after 2012.

The PNG Government wants to be the “ultimate carbon cowboy” in PNG so it is playing delay tactics to stall VCS in PNG and to maintain all forest areas for itself to have access to when a compliance market comes on after 2012.

The PM also stated that a climate framework was not yet finalised to protect and safeguard the interests of customary landowners dealing with carbon dealers under the VCS.

However, this is the cheapest excuse that can be given, and it insults the intelligence of people who are familiar with development of policies and legislations.

The issue of climate change has been around since the 1980s, and literature has built up immensely within science and policy domains in the last few years which are available and can be used to develop a climate change framework for PNG.

Thus there is no excuse for the OCCD to say that it has not produced a climate change framework for PNG as yet.

Two offices have preceded the OCCD, in which time a climate change framework should have been produced by now, and the civil societies in PNG have been constantly calling on the government to put in place legislation and policy for climate change.

Moreover, there is sufficient human resource within country that can be utilise by OCCD to draft a climate change framework, but it seems a few handpicked people are being used by the government to run the show so that some peoples’ vested interests are protected.

But since no policy or legislation has been developed for climate change in PNG as yet, it goes to show that the PNG government is deliberately avoiding the issue so that it does not put itself under any obligation to protect its indigenous people and their forest resources from carbon cowboys, of which the PNG government is one of them and the “ultimate carbon cowboy”.

Finally, a few years ago the PM was questioned on his family’s vested interest in carbon trade in PNG and the establishment of a pyramid structure that was establish within the Office of Climate Change and Carbon Trade (OCCCT) to  deliberate on carbon financing.

Although time has passed and memories have faded, I am of the opinion that the pyramid structure that existed within OCCCT is still alive and exists within the OCCD and is just waiting to deliberate on any international funding on REDD+ that may come out from the $4.5 billion (US) earmarked for developing countries.

It’s official: Somare is even worse than Mugabe

October 27, 2010 1 comment

The citizens of Papua New Guinea have jokingly been comparing the state of their Nation with the corruption riddled dictatorship of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe for several years now and drawing parallels between the longevity of the reign of PM Michael Somare and the African state’s leader.

But the latest Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency Intenational actually ranks PNG twenty places BELOW Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

The Index places Papua New Guinea in joint 154th place, alongside African countries like Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville and Guinea-Bissau, while Zimbabwe is ranked 134th.

You can view the full results here – Corruption Perceptions Index 2010

RH apologist attacked by leading scientists

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment

A collection of some of the world’s leading scientists have published an open letter (below) denouncing Rimbunan Hijau’s favourite lobbyist and spin doctor, Alan Oxley.

Oxley’s and his organiastions regularly publish reports defending RH and attacking its critics, but the scientists say Oxley “treads a thin line between reality and significant distortion of the facts” and many of his arguments “represent significant distortions, misrepresentations, or misinterpretations of fact”.

An Open Letter about Scientific Credibility and the Conservation of Tropical Forests

To whom it may concern:

As professional scientists employed by leading academic and research institutions, we are writing to alert the general public about some of the claims and practices being used by the World Growth Institute (WGI) and International Trade Strategies Global (ITS), and their affiliated leadership.

WGI and ITS operate in close association. ITS is owned by Alan Oxley, an Australian industrial lobbyist, former trade representative, and former Ambassador who also heads WGI. According to its website, ITS also has “close associations” with several politically conservative US think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation.

In our personal view, WGI and ITS — which are frequently involved in promoting industrial logging and oil palm and wood pulp plantations internationally — have at times treaded a thin line between reality and a significant distortion of facts. Specifically, we assert that:

  • ITS is closely allied with, and frequently funded by, multinational logging, woodpulp, and oil palm corporations. The financial supporters of ITS include parent corporations producing paper and wood products under the aegis of ‘Asia Pulp & Paper’, among others.
  • Alan Oxley and ITS have often lobbied in favor of Rimbunan Hijau, one of the world’s largest industrial logging corporations. Rimbunan Hijau has been repeatedly criticized for its environmental and human-rights impacts in Papua New Guinea.
  • WGI frequently lobbies public opinion on the behalf of Sinar Mas holdings, a conglomerate of mostly Indonesian logging, wood-pulp, and oil palm companies that includes Golden Agri Resources, a Singapore-based firm. One of these companies, known as ‘SMART’, could face expulsion by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an industry-led trade group, for “serious non-compliance with the RSPO Code of Conduct” with respect to its environmental and social sustainability guidelines.
  • In an interview with Malaysia’s The Star newspaper, in which he strongly advocated further oil palm expansion in that country, Mr Oxley refused to answer a direct question as to whether he or WGI was supported by the Malaysian palm oil industry. He dismissed this question as being “immaterial”. We believe that WGI’s financial supporters include many of the same industrial sectors for which WGI regularly advocates.
  • While routinely accusing several environmental organizations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of bias and scientific misrepresentation, WGI and ITS have, in our opinion, advanced a range of biased or distorted arguments themselves. For example, consider an ostensibly “independent” audit from ITS that sought to exonerate Asian Pulp & Paper from claims of illegal and damaging logging practices in Sumatra, Indonesia. This audit appears to be far from objective in scope, especially given the clear financial links between these two entities, which brings into question its claims to be “independent”. Among other claims, the ITS audit broadly understates the scope and gravity of forest loss and degradation in Indonesia, despite that nation having among the world’s highest absolute rates of deforestation and being ranked 7th worst out of 200 nations in terms of net environmental damage, according to a recent analysis. It also suggests that the palm oil and pulp and paper industries are not important drivers of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia. Yet recent research has demonstrated that much of the oil palm expansion in Indonesia between 1990 and 2005 came at the expense of native forests (many plantation owners favor clearing native forests over already-degraded lands as they use revenues from logging to offset the costs of plantation establishment). Moreover, the rapid expansion of pulp plantations is a serious driver of native-forest loss in both Sumatra and Kalimantan, Indonesia.
  • A recent technical report by ITS concluded that “There is no evidence of substantial deforestation” in Papua New Guinea, a conclusion strongly at variance with quantitative, remote-sensing studies of forest conversion published in the refereed scientific literature.
  • Reports from WGI and ITS routinely claim that newly established oil palm plantations sequester carbon more rapidly than do old-growth rainforests. This claim, while technically correct, is a distraction from the reality that mature oil palm plantations store much less carbon than do old-growth rainforests (plantations store just 40-80 tonnes of biomass aboveground, half of which is carbon, compared to 200-400 tonnes of aboveground biomass in old-growth rainforests). WGI and ITS reports have also in our view dismissed or downplayed other important environmental concerns, including the serious impact of tropical peatland destruction on greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of forest disruption on threatened species such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers. Furthermore, WGI and ITS, we believe, have failed to recognize adequately that many forests of high conservation value are being destroyed and fragmented by plantation development — a process that is mostly driven by corporations, not small holders.
  • WGI, ITS, and Alan Oxley frequently invoke “poverty alleviation” as a key justification for their advocacy of oil palm expansion and forest exploitation in developing nations, and it is true that these sectors do offer significant local employment. Yet forest loss and degradation also have important societal costs. There are many examples in which local or indigenous communities in the tropics have suffered from large-scale forest loss and disruption, have had their traditional land rights compromised, or have gained minimal economic benefits from the exploitation of their land and timber resources. Such costs are frequently ignored in the arguments by WGI, ITS, and Alan Oxley.
  • One of the most serious misconceptions being promulgated by WGI and ITS in our view is that “two-thirds of forest clearance is driven by low-income people in poor countries”. In fact, the importance of industrial drivers of deforestation — which includes large-scale palm oil and wood-pulp plantations, industrial logging, large-scale cattle ranching, large-scale farming of soy, sugarcane, and other crops, and oil and gas exploration and development — has risen dramatically in the past 1-2 decades. These industrial drivers are largely responsible for the explosive expansion of roads in tropical frontier regions, which facilitates massive forest loss and degradation. Such industries and their lobbyists also create great pressures on the governments of developing nations to allow access to their lands and natural resources, both via legal and illegal means. Hence, a crucial and overarching cause of tropical forest loss and degradation today is rapidly increasing industrialization and globalization. We believe WGI either fails to comprehend, or is failing to convey accurately, the real and growing magnitude of industrial drivers as a threat to tropical forests.
In summary, our goal is not to defend any environmental organization or to suggest that environmentally and socially equitable development is not an important objective for developing and transitional nations. Nor do we dispute that oil palm plantations, when established on previously deforested or abandoned lands such that they do not contribute either directly or indirectly to deforestation, can have important economic benefits and largely acceptable environmental costs. However, we do assert that a number of the key arguments of WGI, ITS, and Alan Oxley, represent significant distortions, misrepresentations, or misinterpretations of fact. In other cases, the arguments they have presented amount to a “muddying of the waters” which we argue is designed to defend the credibility of the corporations we believe are directly or indirectly supporting them financially. As such, WGI and ITS should be treated as lobbying or advocacy groups, not as independent think-tanks, and their arguments weighted accordingly.
William F. Laurance, PhD, Distinguished Research Professor & Australian Laureate, Prince Bernhard Chair in International Nature Conservation, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Thomas E. Lovejoy, PhD, Biodiversity Chair, The Heinz Center, Washington, D.C., USA; University Professor, George Mason University, Virginia, USA
Sir Ghillean Prance, FRS, VMH, Professor and Director Emeritus of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK
Paul R. Ehrlich, PhD, Bing Professor of Population Studies, President of the Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University, California, USA
Georgina Mace, PhD, FRS, CBE, Professor and Director of the NERC Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College London, Ascot, UK
Peter H. Raven, PhD, President Emeritus Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Susan M. Cheyne, PhD, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford, UK; Orang-utan Tropical Peatland Project, Director of Gibbon and Felid Research
Corey J. A. Bradshaw, PhD, Professor and Director of Ecological Modelling, The Environment Institute and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide; South Australian Research and Development Institute, Adelaide, Australia
Omar R. Masera, PhD, Professor and Director, Bioenergy Lab, National University of Mexico (UNAM); President, Mexican Network on Bioenergy, Morelia, Mexico; Nobel Laureate on behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Gabriella Fredriksson, PhD, Research Fellow, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Studies; Knighted in the Order of the Golden Ark University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Barry W. Brook, PhD, Professor and Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change, Director of Climate Science, The Environment Institute and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Australia
Lian Pin Koh, PhD, Senior Research Fellow ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), Zurich, Switzerland