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NGOs talk to palm oil players

Several non-governmental organisations here have joined hands to form a coalition to provide an avenue for dialogues with palm oil industry stakeholders.

The group, named Malaysian Palm Oil NGO Coalition (MPONGOC), aims to influence land use policy, decision-making and towards advocating consumer responsibility.

The current members of the coalition are Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA), Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia (JOAS), Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Sabah branch, Partners of Community Organisations (Pacos) Trust and WWF Malaysia.

The Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) would be acting as an observer, the coalition in a statement said yesterday.

The group said they were driven by the unproductive debate over demand for palm oil and its impact on indigenous people’s rights, wildlife habitats and environmental pollution.

“We want to have a say in the palm oil debate. MPONGOC wants to engage in constructive and on-going dialogue with the industry via the Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA), Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), and with other stakeholders as part of its advocacy work,” it said.

LEAP executive director Cynthia Ong said there was a growing need for local and regional groups to step up, organise and engage constructively with the palm oil industry, noting its emphasis on national and state development plans such as the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and Sabah Development Corridor.

“We also wish to state that MPONGOC is in full support of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) process and we are committed to engaging and contributing to its success,” Ong said.

BORA executive director Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne said the coalition would not create a whole new process, but rather assist the palm oil sector in playing a more positive role in the environment.

WWF-Malaysia executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said while recognising that the oil palm industry generates valuable foreign exchange earnings and employment opportunities for producing countries like Malaysia, WWF-Malaysia was concerned at the prospect of the industry continuing to expand and operate in an unsustainable manner.

MPONGOC plans to organise a workshop to gather indigenous leaders to discuss land issues in relation to the palm oil industry.

PACOS Trust executive director Anne Lasimbang said indigenous people often found themselves at the losing end in oil palm development.

“Many have lost native customary rights land to large estates. This is a serious issue and one that is largely swept under the carpet.

“We see MPONGOC as being able to offer solutions by involving all stakeholders.”

BCT head of conservation and research Raymond Alfred hoped the coalition would be able to initiate transparent consultation with oil palm companies that were found to have encroached into riparian reserves and come up with win-win solutions.

“MPONGOC could also support effective consultation with the government in order to review existing policies and, if necessary, to enhance implementation of relevant monitoring and enforcement programmes to secure biodiversity, the wildlife corridor and habitat protection.”

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