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Royalties concern forest activists

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A timber was logged in Prey Lang Protected Forest in 2016. Heng Chivoan

Royalties concern forest activists

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said in the first three quarters of this year, Cambodia earned $5.7 million in royalties from forest produce – an increase of nearly $2 million compared to the same period last year when it earned $4 million.

The figures were given in the ministry’s latest report on the situation of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in the first three quarters of this year and its annual objectives which was released on Tuesday.

The report said it cracked down on 691 cases of forest crimes, illegal hunting and logging, of which 362 cases resulted in fines while 329 were sent to court.

The ministry’s deputy cabinet director Chan Heng told The Post on Wednesday that income from forest royalties came from various economic land concessions issued to companies.

“The companies received their economic land concessions in the past. Now, they had cleared the forest and collected forest produce.

“We collect the royalties based on the produce which they collected and the volume of produce in cubic metres they had obtained. We require them to pay tax to the state according to the price of first, second or third-grade wood,” he said.

In its 2016 report entitled Statistical Analysis of Economic Land Concessions in Cambodia, the Research and Advocacy Relation Centre of the NGO Forum on Cambodia said the Kingdom had granted nearly two million hectares of economic land concessions from 1995 to 2015 to 267 companies to grow agro-industrial crops.

However, in 2012, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the government had decided to stop granting economic land concessions to investment companies and even revoked many concessions that were granted.

Heng could not say how many companies were being granted rights to manage economic land concessions to date. He also could not say how many companies paid the $5.7 million in royalties for forest produce.

Forest protection community representative Kroeung Tola is concerned over the higher income (royalties) compared to last year as it meant the collection of forest produce had also increased.

“Forest crimes are not decreasing but increasing. Even though the head of the government announced to close the concessions and strict measures were taken, illegal logging of forests continues.

“The amount of income [royalties] is really little as [illegal] forest loggers are earning revenue that is more than 10 to 20 times [the total of royalties],” he said.

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