Make timber export ban a permanent policy: Tangau
Published on: Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: The new Sabah government's move to ban the export of timber should be made a permanent policy so that industries involved in the resulting downstream economic activities can have a sustainable presence, said Sabah Trade and Industries Minister Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau. Tangau said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal had identified several industries in Sabah for the development of downstream activities.

"All these industries want to be involved in processing the raw materials that they have such as logs, palm oil and petroleum," said Tangau during a press conference here on Tuesday.

"The Sabah government bans the export of logs so that they can be processed locally.

"At the ministry, we welcome this policy and we want this policy to be fixed for a long time, not for the short term."

Tangau was addressing reporters during a farewell ceremony for his ministry's former Permanent Secretary Datuk Hashim Paijan who has become the new State Secretary.

Tangau, who is also Sabah Deputy Chief Minister, said the export ban will encourage people to invest, for example, in the wood industry, like in peninsular Malaysia and neighbouring nations such as Indonesia where such as a policy is for the long term.

"Yesterday, we had a discussion with the Sabah Timber Industry Association or STIA, where we learned that their members used to operate somewhere else when the state government implemented a policy to export logs," said Tangau.

"Then they came here when the policy was relaxed, but later, the government (went back to its export policy), so the industry was unstable."

Apart from the wood industry, Tangau said Sabah has the furniture and rubber processing industries and recently the Chief Minister talked about tyre manufacturing using pure rubber.

"We are also looking at this from the circular economy perspective such as recycling tyres and mixing them with pure rubber (to make new tyres) because in processing, sufficient raw materials are important," said Tangau.

"It's the same with the palm oil industry because we have 1.6 million ha of oil palm land, the largest in Malaysia, so the potential for downstream activities is huge."

Tangau said the Chief Minister had also mentioned about the automobile industry.

"Although it is not related to natural resources, we want to make Sabah profit from its strategic geographical location," said Tangau.

"We haven't had a specific vehicle maker brand in mind, but we've discussed this with several investors.

"In the past, the negotiations couldn't continue maybe because some things were not in place, so now we are revisiting the matter.

"The investors are both foreign and local but Sabah is using the most four-wheel drive vehicles in the country, so there's a chance to assemble trucks here.

"Tan Chong (Motors) is one of them, but we're open to discussions with all."

Tangau also expressed confidence that lack of raw materials will not be a problem in the government's efforts to make more downstream economic opportunities.

"We do have the raw materials such as timber but we have to organise them properly," he said.

Shafie recently announced that Sabah will temporarily ban log exports to encourage the growth of local industries and provide more jobs for the people.

It was reported that Sabah currently exports between 200,000 tonnes and 300,000 tonnes of logs annually to countries such as China, Japan, Philippines and India.

STIA President Datuk James Hwong reportedly welcomed the move saying it provides a life-saving measure to revive timber-related industries in Sabah.

Hwong had said many mills closed down over the years because of the shortage of raw materials.

Tangau also stressed on the need to develop Sabah's logistics network to intensify the growth of the Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park (KKIP) and Palm Oil Industrial Clusters (POIC).

He also hoped the Lahad Datu POIC will be able to operate its port 24 hours a day instead of only 12 hours to attract more investors. - Yuzam Yusa


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