Sabah, US firm sign MoU on Malua Biobank
Some 34,000 hectares of forest reserve in the East Coast of Sabah will be the proving ground that innovative conservation that combines businesses, groups and individuals to invest financially towards rehabilitation efforts, works. Home to 1,000 orangutans, Borneo pygmy elephants and the highly endangered Sumatran Rhinos, the logged-over Malua Forest Reserve will be Malaysia’s first ever Habitat Conservation Bank (or Malua BioBank) to conserve and preserve the tropical forests and the natural habitats of wild life. Under an agreement inked here yesterday between the Sabah Government and American-based NewForests Property Limited, the Malua BioBank would result in the sale of biodiversity credits in the form of biodiversity conservation certificates. The State Government was represented at the signing by the Sabah Forestry Department and the State-owed Sabah Foundation. Department Director Datuk Sam Mannan said each certificate would represent 100 square metres and the initial offer price for these certificates would be US$10 per square metre to venerate a total of US$34 million for limitation of Malua, where logging ceased in December 2007. “This is a first-of-its kind business model for rainforest conservation,” said Mannan at the signing ceremony witnessed by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman. He said the funds would be used to manage the forest reserve under the guidance of the Malua Trust, with its funds to be managed by HSB C Malaysia, for at least 50 years while the surplus would be for Yayasan Sabah and NewForests. “During this time, Sabah does lose ownership over its wildlife, forest or lands. We only share the good feeling of being traded. Nothing physical changes hands. Only the intrinsic, intangible values of Malua,” he added. Manan said four Malaysian firms from Sabah, namely Bakalayan Sdn Bhd, HormatJadiSdn Bhd, Maxland Sdn Bhd and Liew Ping Chong, were the pioneering investors in the Malua BioBank having acquire4 some US$200,000 of bio-credits. “And if this Malua BioBan turns out to be truly successful, we may, with the permission of the State Government, look into other conservation areas, which at the moment, are not returning significant monetary gains directly,” said Sam. He however stressed the importance of good quality management in Malua, adding: “Good governance of Malua will enhance its value, poor governance will erode it and people will lose trust.” It is the Department’s duty, together with the licensee, Sabah Foundation, to ensure that the world would not be let down, he said. Sam also stressed that the credibility and transparency of the State Government had encouraged nongovernmental organisations around the world to continue investing towards forest conservation efforts in Sabah. He added that Sabah is well known for its good forest governance and attributed it to the State’s tireless efforts in conserving its rainforests which are important to Sabah and also the world at large. “Political certification for good forest management is the most important certificate you must get,” said Sam, congratulating the Chief Minister and his Cabinet Ministers. NewForests Managing Director Dr David Brand said international marketing efforts were underway to promote the Malua BioBank certificates among investors and individuals. “Ultimately if the Malua BioBank is successful, we could see similar conservation banks in other parts of Sabah as well as Malaysia, Indonesia and Africa,” he added. Brand believes that the success of Malua will be a great story for Sabah, which is afready well-known for its rainforests’ biodiversity. “The ability to create such pioneering initiative reflects well on the commitment of Sabah to be a world leader in conservation. I suggested at one point that Sabah may well become a kind of Silicon Valley of environmental finance, selling biodiversity and carbon credits to an international market. “Imagine an economy that encompasses commodities like timber and palm oil, as well as carbon credits and biodiversity certificates, a landscape that encompasses both production and conservation working together in harmony.. “What a model for other regions of the world,” he said, adding that NewForests will also be setting up its Asian office here soon. Musa said the State Government’s balancing act in wanting high economic development and conservation of Sabah’s environment was akin to moving cautiously on a tight rope. “Today we have been proven successful in this act and courageous enough to accept new and innovative approaches for the good of present and future generations,” he said.