Venerable Buddhist Monks,
Mr. Katsuhiro Shinohara, Chargé d’Affaires a.i of Japan,
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today it is my distinct honor and pleasure to join all of you in inaugurating the Forestry and Wildlife Training Center of the Forestry Administration, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, may I express our deep appreciation to the management and all the staff of the MAFF for their efforts in realizing this great and historic achievement for the forestry and wildlife of Cambodia.
Allow me also to express our deep gratitude to the Japanese Government and its people for their tremendous contributions in technical assistance and funds for Cambodia’s rehabilitation and development in almost all the sectors, including the construction of this Training Center for Forestry and Wildlife, – an important area in the development of forestry and wildlife in Cambodia.
The forestry sector has been receiving much attention from the Royal Government and its development partners, including the Japanese Government and its people. The center we open today is another major result of the close cooperation between the peoples of Japan and Cambodia. I still remember that on 3 December 2001 His Excellency Takami Eto of the Japanese Parliament and the Chairman of the Japan-Cambodia Parliamentarian Friendship Confederation, visited Cambodia to plant the symbolic tree to launch the Capacity Strengthening in Forestry Sector Project implemented between 2001 to 2004 within the Department of Forestry and Wildlife of the MAFF. Moreover, the Japanese Government supported the first forest stock assessment of Cambodia in 1991, using GIS techniques and satellite imagery. With the assistance from the JICA, 14 officials of the DOFW participated in a training course on forestry in Japan in 1995. The Government of Japan has also provided forestry experts to help the DOFW in efforts to rehabilitate the forests of Kbal Chay, Sihanoukville and the installment of an internet website for forestry administration.
This training center expresses anew the sympathy of the Government and people of Japan toward the Government and people of Cambodia for the development of forestry and wildlife in Cambodia. This project also attests to the shared aspirations of friendship between Cambodia and Japan now and in the future. Through this assistance, the Japanese government and people encourages the Cambodian people and government in the steadfast implementation of reform programs in all sectors to promote sustainable economic development and the accelerated reduction of poverty among our people.
Indeed, we have so far established many academic institutions, research, training and vocational centers and schools, but not a training center for forestry and wildlife. Therefore this center that we open today brings pride to the staff of the Forestry Administration and the Royal Government. This achievement also strengthens the Cambodian peoples’ hope for the sustained and effective management of our forest and wildlife resources – which will help fulfill the Royal Government’s major policy agenda in forestry reform.
The speech by H.E. Minister Chan Sarun and the report by the Representative of JICA on the establishment of this Training Center for Forestry and Wildlife clearly reflected the profound attention of the Royal Government and the biggest donor of Cambodia, directed to the development of forestry and wildlife in general and the human resources in the sector in particular. Indeed, the Royal Government of Cambodia has considered the reform of the forestry sector as one of the three main pillars of its strategy for poverty reduction. In its second term of office, the Royal Government has been fully committed and determined in setting up the necessary and strong measures to combat forest crimes and improve the legal framework and institutional capacity that will ensure the sustainable management of forestry and natural resources in Cambodia. Specifically, the Law on Forestry is a key legal instrument for sustainable forestry management, and this law was approved and promulgated on 31 August 2002.
In addition, the Royal Government, on 26 July 2002, issued a declaration on forestry policy. The Royal Government continues the preparation of implementing sub-decrees and prakas and other regulations for the prompt and effective implementation of the forestry polices and law. These include the sub-decrees on forestry communities, social land concessions, and the fisheries communities.
At the CG Monitoring Meeting between the Royal Government and the donor community on 28 January 2003, the Royal Government firmly declared that it has not stepped backward from forestry reforms. We remain committed and determined to pursue the reform program though the general elections are approaching. The Royal Government will continue to strictly implement the moratorium of logging and log transport by all concessionaires until the Sustainable Forest Management Plan and the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report has been finalized and officially approved. Moreover, the government will update Cambodia’s forestry map soon in order to have a more complete understanding of the current status of Cambodia’s forest resources. Thereby we can identify measures for upgrading and improving forestry management.
Furthermore, as the process of monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of the forest management plans and preparation of forestry map unfolds, the Royal Government is determined to further reduce or cancel the licenses of the poorly-managed and economically-inefficient concessions. We shall transform these lands into reserves or for the use and preservation by communities. This process will requires us to undertake field visits to the concession sites and the local communities to see the actual situation, keeping in mind that the peoples’ interest is our main concern. Given our findings, we should be decisive to allocate parts of the land for forest use and clearing, and for local cultivation. I wish to reiterate that the government will not allow any investment on lands that cause the loss of the means of livelihood of people such as cultivation. We should not allow people to become slaves in their own homeland.
Furthermore, in order to ensure the transparent review of forest management plans in accordance with the international standards, the Royal Government has implemented a pilot project on Forest Concession Monitoring over 2001-2003 with loan financing from the World Bank. Three international companies: Forest Resource Management from France, Indufor from Finland and SGS from Switzerland were selected to conduct the review, data verification and inventory of forest concessions in the field and conduct consultations with the local communities living in the concession forests.
To ensure transparency and credibility, the Royal Government has cooperated fully with the monitoring companies and the World Bank consultants in the setting of criteria and indicators for the review of the forest management plans and the ESIA, modalities for review, evaluation of concessions and the open process of consultation. So far, 13 forest concessionaires have submitted their forest management plans and ESIA to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for review. The MAFF has presented the plans for public consultation and now is seriously continuing the process with all stakeholders. To date, the size of the remaining forest concessions is 3.8 million hectares, slightly more than the 3 million hectares of forest concessions cancelled by the Royal Government since 1999.
Once again, I convey my warmest regards to Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the representatives of donor countries who have been actively participated in all forms of initiatives in the development and training of human resources for forestry and wildlife in Cambodia. On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I especially thank the Royal Government of Japan and the JICA for its technical assistance and financing for this Training Center for Forestry and Wildlife. I deem this center to be invaluable for Cambodia’s sustainable development. Thus I call on the MAFF and especially the Forest Administration office to please manage the training programs effectively and efficiently to ensure that the maximum outcome is derived for the true benefit of Cambodia! The heartfelt efforts of all concerned are great contributions to the welfare of our next generation and the entire country. Most especially, it is your active contribution to the implementation of the policies and strategies of the Royal Government for the reduction of poverty among our people.
May I take this opportunity, through Mr. Katsuhiro Shinohara, Chargé d’Affaires a.i of Japan to Cambodia, to convey our utmost appreciation and deep gratitude to the Japanese government and its people for their active participation in the rehabilitation and development of Cambodia in all sectors and thus for the well-being of all Cambodian people and the prosperity of Cambodia. We all deeply appreciate and will forever remember in our hearts your invaluable contributions.
In closing, I wish all of you, – the Venerable Buddhist Monks, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, our Countrymen and Students present here, the five gems of Buddhist blessings. May I now declare the official opening of the Training Center for Forestry and Wildlife!