Forests Asia Summit 2014 – Pehin Dato Yahya Bakar, Day 2 Ministerial Address

Watch Pehin Dato Yahya Bakar, the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Brunei Darussalam, speak on the second day of the Forests Asia Summit 2014.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014.

Forests Asia Summit, 5-6 May 2014, Jakarta, #ForestsAsia

Pehin Dato Yahya Bakar’s speech:

Very good morning to you all. I feel small and inferior appearing after minister Manuel, physically and psychologically. So I am going to make my speech interesting by starting from the conclusion part of my speech, and you can leave the room after that at your own will. But before that let me greet Director General Doctor Peter Holmgren, my fellow plenary speakers, high-level panel discussion and forum speakers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I also would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Center for International Forestry Research, CIFOR, and the Ministry of Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia for giving Brunei the platform to share our experience in sustainable forest management in this Forests Asia Summit 2014, and I hope to provide the link between what Minister Manuel has said, and the panel discussion after this on collaborative efforts on forest management.

So as I said I will straightaway go to the conclusion part of my speech, which is that climate change, and related issues like food security and natural calamities is a global issue. For that, Brunei Darussalam, my country, will commit the following:

Firstly, to continue to offer our tropical rainforests for use as research and study on terrestrial flora and fauna, marine life, as well as forest microbes and microorganisms. Secondly, to continue to commit to sustainable and responsible agricultural practices. We will limit our agricultural production to no more than one percent of our land areas, even for as important as the production of staple foods, such as rice, and we will continue to diverge on technology and know-how to achieve our food security, either through the use of higher variety of crops, or more productive and efficient farmers through the use of mechanization.

And finally, this is the crucial part – that we will continue to collaborate with our neighbors, sharing our borders in the island of Borneo, under the Heart of Borneo initiative. My statement will center around three main topics, a lot less than Minister Manuel – seven inspiration but I call them three, which is Brunei’s strategies for protecting and conserving forests. Secondly the preservation of peat forests. And thirdly, how we address the challenges of forest loss and degradation.

Now on this first topic of how Brunei strategized its policy in protecting and conserving forests. Despite being a small country, Brunei Darussalam has gained international recognition for having a world-class tropical rainforest of which the majority is still in pristine condition, and protected by laws passed some eighty years ago, in 1934 – the Forest Act. Now, with this forest act, our country is still 75% covered with trees. And the state forest act provides the basic law for administration of the country’s forests, and the law also emphasizes the importance of biological diversity conservation, bioprospecting, excess and benefit sharing, enforcement, and forest protection. And in addition to the law, there is also in place a national forest policy to guide us in the management and utilization of out forest resources. And this policy – this national forest policy – emphasizes the importance of forestry to the environment. In other words, as the Minister Manuel mentioned, putting forestry at the center of everything else.

And about the role of research and technology, human resources development, and the implementation of sound and balanced forestry programs and management strategies. In other words, in Brunei there is a strong political will, and active participation of all levels of society, to protect and conserve our natural forest heritage.

Moving on to the second topic, the preservation of peat swamp forests in Brunei, where they are very much intact, and around 80% are still in good quality, and believed to be the highest proportion of intact peat swamp forests in Southeast Asia. Realizing the true protective and biological value of the peat swamp ecosystem, the government took immediate action to preserve the forest by banning the utilization. And this proved to be a wise decision, because the indirect benefits that the peat swamp ecosystem to the country go beyond our expectations and significantly contributed to our aggressive economic initiative. The protective benefits that the peat swamp ecosystem provide against natural calamities save huge amounts in terms of life and property, and a sustainable supply of fresh water from the peat swamp ecosystem has sustained our oil and gas industry operations.

We understand that there are more benefits to be had, in terms of the rich biological diversity, and indigenous use of our peat swamp forests. As such, the sequestration of massive carbon deposits of peat swamp ecosystems, as well as in our natural forests, will be our great contribution to our global climate change initiative. At present we are opening our windows for more research collaboration in further understanding the ecosystem and to develop effective management strategies for the benefits of the global communities.

And the last topic is, how do we address the challenge of forest loss and degradation? Despite its size – or rather, because of its size, Brunei also faces some challenges on forest loss. Specifically the conversion of state land forests to other land uses, such as for shelter, agriculture, and other development activities in the country. These developments are inevitable, and need to be handled carefully. As such, there is a necessity to implement a landscape, holistic approach that would address the conflicting interests for land and related resources.

One such approach is the Heart of Borneo initiative, which is a trans-boundary agreement amongst the countries of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, to facilitate the conservation of the forest resources. At the same time, allowing development to take place sustainably.

More importantly, the Heart of Borneo initiative aims to minimize deforestation, forest degradation, and the associated loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services on the island of Borneo. It is a short introduction to the Heart of Borneo, but it does require a big forum to tell about the initiative – the Heart of Borneo. Now, the increasing appreciation of forest conservation in Brunei and the value of the biodiversity has also let another approach in forest management and administration.

We have decided to stop timber harvesting in our production forest reserve in order to maintain the integrity of our forest ecosystem. This is not to say that our timber harvesting operations, or the selective felling system is not sustainable, it is just that we recognize the increasing value of our forest ecosystem based on its ecological services and biological diversity to be of much more value than the timber resources alone.

Simultaneously, we also recognize the contribution of our wood-based industry to the national economy. As such, timber harvesting operations will now be confined in a forested area intended for forest plantation development.

Market-based incentives will soon be in place to encourage the industry to invest in modern machinery in order to increase efficiency and produce value-added wood products. And to complement the establishment of forest plantations, the government will encourage private-public partnership through the three farmland concepts. And under this concept, potential private investors will be given the opportunity to enter into an agreement with the government, and invest in forest plantation establishments with compatible land uses, such as ecological tourism, agroforestry, and bioprospecting.

Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion let me once again repeat what I said earlier. That is, climate change and related issues like food security and natural calamities are global issues. Brunei Darussalam being a small country, but with a big heart, makes our initiative more manageable by putting important sectors, like forestry, agriculture, fisheries, and tourism, under one ministry, under one authority – the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources – is the rational strategy.

However, smallness has its own disadvantage. Any small changes in climate will have a profound impact on the country. Therefore, we, as a responsible member of the United Nations, and its related bodies, Brunei Darussalam will commit, as I said before, to continue to offer our tropical rainforests for use as a research and study on terrestrial flora and fauna, marine life, as well as forest microbes and microorganisms.

Secondly, to continue to commit to sustainable and responsible agricultural practices, we will limit our agricultural production to no more than one percent of our land area, and we will continue to leverage technology and know-how to achieve our food security, either through the use of high-yield varieties of crops, or more productive and efficient farmers, including the use of mechanization.

And finally, I would emphasize that this is something that can relate to the panel discussion after this, to continue to collaborate with our neighbors sharing borders with us in the island of Borneo, under the Heart of Borneo initiative. And of course we cannot do this alone. The issue at hand requires regional and global actions and efforts to come up with better ideas, policies, action plans, strategies, and implementation. These policies need to be translated into actions, and implementation which will certainly require funds, expertise, knowledge, infrastructure, as well as substantive assistance financially and technically from potential partners, donors, investors, and developed nations.

This is the short content of my remark. The full text of it is available online, and is at the secretariat. Finally, I would like to conclude by expressing my sincere thanks once again to the summit organizers for giving us a platform and an opportunity to share our country’s experience in forest management and administration. I hope we have contributed in one way or the other in meeting the objective of the summit. Thank you for your attention, and may we have a productive day ahead of us.

Leave a Reply