BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
NGELLA’S logging petition to ban the activity was successfully launched over the weekend at Tulaghi received by the premier of Central Islands province (CIP).
Handing over the petition were school students of Siota Provincial Secondary School (PSS) on behalf of local citizens contributing in signing and the famous Ngella Forum (NGF) Team of social media being the back bone initiating the historical move.
The petition presented to the provincial government will be part of CIP’s State of the Forests Report 2017-2018 to the Ministry of Forestry.
Despite NGF’s Team travelling over to Tulaghi was small in members presence, the NGF Administration with the help of children, McMahon Community High School and Siota PSS students and Staffs, authorities Officers and members of the general public marched starting at the provincial headquarter market reaching the front doors of the Provincial Government Office where the Premier Hon Patrick Vasuni was waiting.
NGF’s Team member Mr Kenneth Sagupari before handing over the petition to CIP’s Premier explained that they the people of Ngella are disturbed by the uncontrolled and unsustainable harvesting of the forestry resources (logging) on their islands seeing the destruction of the environment as a result from the activity.
“We would like to see that our forests are reserved for our livelihoods and that for our future generations. We would also like to preserve the beauty of our islands and the environment for other sustainable developments such as tourism for the enjoyment of our citizens,” said Sagupari.
“Therefore, we would like to petition our provincial government as the legitimate representative of our people to act on the following demands and wishes of our people: 1, to work with the relevant and responsible authorities to use the existing mechanisms and legislations to put a Moratorium on logging on Ngella.
“The provincial government to update the people through Ngella Forum and other avenues on actions being taken as well as the progress of negotiations, 2, to investigate the legality and legitimacy of the existing logging operations on Ngella.
“Also, to demand the relevant and responsible authorities to penalise the operators if they are found to be illegal and illegitimate, 3, to support the awareness activities by citizens and concerned groups on the effects of logging, 4, to liaise with other stakeholders to push for the review and reform of the Forest Resources and Timber Utilisation Act with a view to protect the livelihood and interests of our people.”
In response after welcoming the peaceful march, Hon Patrick Vasuni assured NGF and supporters that CIP is seeking a logging Moratorium on Ngella Islands as the process is on the roll now.
“CIP will conduct a survey by the Forestry Team in Tulaghi as their data and findings will form part of the Central Province State of the Forests Report 2017,” said Hon Vasuni.
“The report will state and confirm whether there is overharvesting done or is imminent to occur once operations continue.
“If the baseline and data suggests so then the Minister will be compelled to consider and action the Moratorium of 50 years. It is a fact that re-entries are done after 15 to 25 years but in Ngella’s case, only after 8 years. This is double jeopardy for the regrowth of forests.
“On the issue of mining starting with prospecting, it is even worse than logging. Mining can be seen as logging first and excavating the soil.
“The province is aware of such negative effects and has objected to the first part at the Mines and Mineral Board level.
“The objection by landowners is the key to total no mining in CIP. Landowners must say no and NGF must see to it done if you are serious enough. Awareness through talking is good but visual banners stating “Mining Free Village” is a good start so to make the presence all the way.
“Do not sign access agreements as you will give away your land by birthright to very destructive developments. Just sign access or partnership agreements with the province for tourism and infrastructure developments as the last say will be the landowners and not the province.
“This is the same with logging as we just facilitate the process and monitor via section 10 of the Forestry Act.
“People own the land especially customary land, and that is why partnership is the way forward. If people can say yes to logging then why not say yes to partnership deals for tourism and infrastructure developments.”
The Premier finally encouraged NGF members to diverge and lead the economic front through private sector growth on Ngella Islands.
“You can make the change as well in parallel with the provincial government programmes. The opportunity is here and now is the time to take control and lead,” Vasuni strongly reminded.
Despite of the petition being signed and handed over, Island Sun understands that NGF will continue to carry out more signing process to increase the number of signings against logging for the provincial government to use as it will form part of the State of the Forest Report 2017 as an annexure to it.
Not logging alone but mining prospect is in the game plan of banning as well.
To ban these activities, the CIP provincial government through the Provincial Secretary (PS), Christian Siale, has assured that there are other positive alternatives such as tourism activities for the province to focus on towards future developments.