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Sayang Sabah - The voice of Sabahans

Sabah’s untold story

The good things the state government has done are not often talked about.

By Salleh Said Keruak

Salleh-Said-Keruak2

The trouble with the alternative media is that they like to focus just on the bad news while ignoring whatever good news there may be, especially when it involves the government. And then when the government-controlled media publish negative reports regarding the opposition they cry foul.

Let us be honest. While things may not be 100% perfect, things are not 100% imperfect either. No government in the world is 100% perfect, or 100% terrible.

Sabah, for example, is not being given the credit it deserves. While we do not deny that there are some grounds for complaints, as in Pakatan Rakyat states, why don’t we also talk about the good things that the Sabah government under Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Musa bin Haji Aman has done?

We must remember that there are some things within the power of the state and some things within the power of the Federal Government. The state cannot do much about the things that are within the power of the Federal Government. However, whenever it is within the power of the state, Sabah has done its best to address the various issues.

For example, Sabah has given the Orang Utan, an endangered species, a permanent home with full protection status. Sabah now has the largest Orang Utan sanctuary in the world, which is found in Lahad Datu within the Ulu Segama and Malua Forest Reserves surrounding the Danum Valley. This area holds about 30% of Sabah’s total Orang Utan population of 3,500-4,000.

This has now become a model for Unesco and is the only known Grasp (Great Apes Survival Project) in the world. And this came about when the government decided to phase out logging completely in that area by 2007 after nearly 50 years of continuous logging.

Forest protection

Further to that, ten years ago, the state gave Total Protection Area (TPA) status to the remaining and most pristine lowland forests within the heart of Borneo. The Danum Valley comes to 43,800 hectares, the Maliau Basin 58,840 hectares and the Imbak Canyon 16,750 hectares.

This means the most important undisturbed lowland forests on the island of Borneo, encompassing 119,390 hectares, have now received legislative protection and the security of tenure.

To ensure the robustness of the three areas, and to provide adequate buffers, the three zones are now connected by additional TPAs of some 343,148 hectares created in 2012 and 2013. Hence the total conservation zone of pristine and biological rich regenerating forests now covers 500,000 hectares, making it the single largest conservation area in Malaysia.

Last year, CM Musa Aman announced that it is increasing the TPAs to 30% of Sabah’s land mass over a ten-year period up to 2025. As of 2013, Sabah’s TPAs stood at approximately 1,350,574 hectares compared to only 838,132 hectares in 2002, an increase of 61% or 512,442 hectares in approximately ten years. Last year, another 202,966 hectares were added to this, giving Sabah a total TPA area of 1,553,262 hectares.

Sabah’s TPAs now cover 21% of the total land area, which is more than double the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) standard of 10%. This will make it possible to achieve the 30% target over the next ten years, making it the largest network of TPAs in the country.

Since 2009, all long-term logging licensees in Sabah are independently audited by Global Forestry Services (GFS), an international forest management audit firm. This is to ensure transparency, good governance, compliance and improved performance.

The audit costs the state USD$1 million a year and has been extended for another five years to 2019. Further to that, since 2009, Sabah has engaged, through the European Union, the Forest Law, Governance and Trade (Flegt) initiative to ensure the legality of timber exported to Europe.

First in the world

Sabah also has a new project with the UNDP-GEF (Global Environment Facility) to assess multiple use and multiple income streams from a tract of some 260,000 hectares of forest reserve in Kalabakan-Gunung Rara. This is the first such project in the world.

Sabah is the only state in Malaysia that makes Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) compulsory in Natural Forest Management(NFM) zones. This was implemented in 2011 and RIL operators are also independently audited. Sabah now has the largest pool of trained RIL workers, technicians and supervisors in Malaysia.

Forest revenue is no longer the focus of revenue generation for Sabah. Forest revenue is now only about RM100-150 million per annum or only 4% of the state’s revenue, a far cry from the 1960s when timber provided 75-80% of the state’s revenue. In fact, no new approvals for short-term licences inside forest reserves have been issued since 2002.

Up to 2013, Sabah has planted, naturally treated and rehabilitated 500,000 hectares of natural forests. This will result in a yield of five million cubic metres of timber, thus allowing a robust timber industry to continue and yet preserving the natural forests, a perfect balance by any standard.

Last year, Sabah’s development budget was RM4.6 billion, the largest in Sabah’s history. Sabah’s revenue exceeded RM4 billion and the state now has reserves of RM3.2 billion, again the largest in Sabah’s history and far exceeding the RM150 million of 12 years ago.

For six years running, RAM Ratings has given Sabah an “AAA” rating while Intertek Certification International (what used to be called Moodys International) has given it MS-ISO 9001:2008 certification, also for six years running.

And what many may not be aware of is that from 2004 to 2012 Sabah gave RM101.85 million to non-Muslim bodies and RM74.65 million to private and missionary schools. Hence all communities and ethnicities and religious persuasions are well looked after in Sabah.

Datuk Seri Panglima Salleh Said Keruak is the Deputy Chief of Sabah Umno. – freemalaysiatoday  (27.01.2015)

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