Higher penalties for violating forest laws

by FAYYADH JAAFAR / pic by BERNAMA

DEWAN Rakyat has approved the National Forestry (Amendment) Bill (RUU) 2022 which ensures that the national forestry legal framework moves in line with current developments.

Among the developments in mind include aspects of preventing unauthorised harvesting of forest products and improving and strengthening area management.

Energy and Natural Resources  Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said the Bill contains 62 clauses and involves 44 section amendments, including two schedules; the addition of 12 new sections; the replacement of five sections; and the deletion of one existing section.

One of the amendments is tightening the process of gazetting out and simultaneous replacement of the Permanent Forest Reserve (PFR) by introducing the need for public inquiry before the PFR area is gazetted out. 

PFR gazetted out must be replaced simultaneously with a land area equal to or larger.

New sections were also created such as Section 3A, where Federal Forestry Officers can be authorised, in writing by the State Authority (PBN), to assist PBN in exercising enforcement powers in the field. 

Meanwhile, sections 91A and 96A empower forest officers to conduct inspections on suspected persons and impose roadblocks on transporters suspected of committing forest offences. 

It also increases the rate of fines and penalties for forest offences through amendments to 21 sections. 

Penalties now range between RM20,000 and RM5 million, as opposed to the previous RM10,000 to RM500,000, while the maximum prison sentence was increased from seven to 20 years. 

The forms of punishments have also been categorised according to offences involving major forest products.

Additionally, Section 75A was created to empower PBN to charge and receive fees for forest services.

“I believe that these amendments will further strengthen the management of PFR areas, and increase the confidence of the people and the international community in the commitment of the Federal and state governments in managing social, economic and environmental issues,” Takiyuddin said. 

The National Forestry (Amendment) Bill 2022 amends the National Forestry Act 1984 [Act 313] for the second time after 29 years.