Brunei’s Minister Pehin Yahya Bakar urges renewed commitment to the preservation of rainforests in the Heart of Borneo
“If we squander the Bornean rainforests, we threaten life itself. We must stay focused and commit more resources in order to preserve the last remaining tropical rainforests of the world – especially in the Heart of Borneo (HoB). There is a definite need to ‘reconvene’ the meeting of the Ministers responsible for Forestry from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia to take stock of the achievements so far and to refresh the HoB Declaration mandate after five years of progress on HoB issues.”
These were the key messages from the Minister of Industry and Primary Industries for Brunei Darussalam, Pehin Yahya Bakar, speaking at a Public Forum on Protecting Nature in the Heart of Borneo (HoB) held at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore, on September 5th 2012.
Expanding on his opening ‘call to action’, the Minister called for a reinvigoration and renewed focus on the vision of the three governments for the Heart of Borneo, made in Bali in 2007. That vision being for the effective management of forest resources and conservation of a network of protected areas, productive forests and other sustainable land-uses within the HoB, whilst sustaining people’s welfare.
“The commitment of the partner country signatories to the 2007 Bali Declaration on the Heart of Borneo Initiative needs to be focused and deepened by infusing new breath and blood into this voluntary trans-boundary co-operation,” the Minister said.
Commit more resources
The Minister declared a critical need to commit more resources to the program. Not just by the affected countries, but also by the international community.
“Financial resources are required to build and expand the capacity of the local and indigenous population. Financial resources are required to do research and development and more importantly to help minimize the destruction of the rainforest and to maximize the benefits derived from it”, he said.
He also said that we also had to truly understand the value of the services that nature provided to us - so called natural capital – not just in terms of ecosystem services, but also in areas such as bio-prospecting.
“Currently, only about 5% of the forest micro-organisms have been explored and exploited,” he said.
Pehin Yahya Bakar also warned that financial resources alone however were not enough. He called for an increase also in human resources, and one of the best ways to do this was through education.
“We need to continue to educate the public at large. It is vital to maintain and sustain public interest and momentum in the HoB Initiative as there are many other vested interests that have other more destructive plans for the HoB. Our education sector has the greatest opportunity to truly empower us and our future generations to make a difference”, he said.