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MPOA Visit to the Chief Minister of Sarawak

Sarawak Chief Minister YAB Pehin Sri Abdul Taib MahmudOn 27 August 2009, a delegation from MPOA headquarters and the Sarawak Branch made a courtesy call on the Chief Minister of Sarawak, YAB Pehin Sri Tan Sri Hj. Abdul Taib Mahmud at the Chief Minister’s office, Menara Pelita Building, Petra Jaya, Kuching, and Sarawak. The MPOA delegation took the opportunity to discuss several issues with respect to the palm oil industry in Sarawak.
 
The MPOA raised the issue on the NGO’s campaigns which claimed that the development of the palm oil industry has destroyed the forest biodiversity, particularly the orangutans in Sarawak. The Chief Minister responded that in the past, Sarawak had faced a similar campaign which was directed at tropical timber but the Sarawak government had countered it. Now, the Sarawak government is fully aware that a similar campaign is being launched on the palm oil industry in Malaysia.
 
The current issue which is linking the palm oil industry with carbon emission and climate change was also discussed. The NGOs, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the European Union, United States and the International Panel on Climate Change are now focusing on carbon emission and the destruction of carbon stock in relation to large-scale land use change (LUC) in tropical forest and peat areas that allegedly contribute significantly to global warming. Therefore, the forest and peat areas will not be allowed to be exploited for oil palm cultivation.
 
The Chief Minister informed that the Sarawak Government had, and are undertaking active research; oil palm on peat can act as a carbon sink and not as a carbon source. The Chief Minister emphasized that the peat areas in the coastal areas of Sarawak are the only land resource which the local indigenous population can develop into agricultural areas for their livelihood. Based on the low socio-economic status of the indigenous people, there is a need to develop this resource in order to benefit the local population. Sarawak will continue to fight for their right to exploit peatlands for the socio-economic development of the local community. In addition, the Chief Minister also recognized that the development efforts on the mineral soil areas face  the social  problem of the land  claim by local population.
 
MPOA also took the opportunity to appeal for the rate and threshold price of the Sarawak Sales Tax on palm oil to be reviewed. The exiting threshold price levels used now is based on the cost of production in 1998 which was at RM 700 per tonne. Since the cost of production has increased to about RM 2,000 per tonne due to the increase in the input cost, fertilizer price and high tax burden shouldered by the industry, the threshold price levels should be revised upwards accordingly.
 
In addition, MPOA Sarawak Branch also raised local issues such as plantation security that requires auxiliary police and firearm permits. The problems with respect to the supply and recruitment of foreign workers, were also discussed in view of the fact that Sarawak has to depend on foreign workers.

The MPOA delegation thanked YAB Pehin Sri YAB Pehin Sri Tan Sri Hj. Abdul Taib Mahmud, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, for being kind enough to make available this invaluable opportunity to discuss the problems of the oil palm industry in Sarawak. The visiting delegation presented him with a copy of the book “Sustainable Palm Oil Production – A Malaysian Perspective”; a recently released MPOA publication.
 

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