Hon. Dato Ali Apong’s keynote address at APRS 2016

On behalf of the government of his majesty
the sultan of Brunei Darussalam, it is my great pleasure to welcome you all to the 2016
Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit here in Brunei Darussalam. I am pleased to witness your commitments in
coming all the way here to participate and share your expertise in promoting the development
and conservation of the rainforests of the Asia-Pacific region. I would like to acknowledge with thanks the
invaluable support provided by the Australian Government in co-organizing this year’s
Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit. I admire the demonstration of your commitments
to attaining the common objectives of this partnership since its inaugural summit in
2014, in Sydney, Australia. We wish to return the same commitments, or
even more, in this Asia-Pacific partnership towards the development and conservation of
our rainforest resources. I also would like to extend my warmest appreciation
to the energetic and creative staff from the department under the Ministry of Primary Resources
and Tourism. From the Australian High Commission, from
the Center for International Forestry Research, and also the Department of Environment and
Energy, your professionalism and hard work are considered a major contribution in making
this summit a success. To our sponsors, a very big thanks for your
generosity. I’m happy to witness your kindness in supporting
the required resources of this summit. I share the output of this summit with all
of you as well. I would also like to thank my colleagues from
the government sector across the region for being here with us in this summit. Your continued support and contributions will
fuel this initiative and strengthen our position in addressing the challenges brought about
by climate change and deforestation. For our private sector counterparts, businesses,
civil society groups, academia, international and regional partners, and non-government
organizations, I am very happy to see you all here. You have been an inspiration in the delivery
of our concrete actions on the ground. You are all very helpful in reaching out and
in binding us to achieve the sustainable management of our rainforest ecosystem. The Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit has the
following objectives. Firstly, building political momentum for better
forest and landscape management. Secondly, exploring opportunities for environmentally
sensitive economic diversification. Thirdly, connecting policymakers, academics,
civil society, and private sectors in regional networks of leaders – sharing knowledge,
research, and best practices. And fourthly, increasing public awareness
within the region on the values of forests. Ladies and gentlemen, the rainforest ecosystem
has served as the building blocks of the Asia-Pacific region. History can tell that forestry has been the
earliest industry that supported the development of nations through the utilization of timber
products for infrastructure and related industries. And, until now, our rainforests provide unparalleled
support in mitigating climate change, food security, and other economic potential. I am glad to mention that at some point our
initiatives in restoring our rainforests have started. The 2015 Global Forest Resources Assessment
(FRA) reported that the forests of the Asia-Pacific region have increased by five million hectares
since the year 2010, and 20 million hectares since the year 2000. With a total forest area of 723 million hectares,
the Asia-Pacific forests represent 18 per cent of global forests. According to FRA reports, these positive developments
can be attributed to the increase in protected areas, forest plantations, and improving quality
of forest management in the region. However, despite the increase in the region’s
forests, FRA 2015 still notes that deforestation and forest degradation remain an important
challenge in many countries. Identified drivers of deforestation and forest
degradation include agricultural expansion, infrastructure development, forest product
extraction, and forest fires. Ladies and gentlemen, this summit aims to
identify practical actions to reduce forest loss while, at the same time, balancing the
development aspirations of the Asia-Pacific nations. There is a need for us to refocus on economic
activities that would complement our initiatives in rainforest conservation. As such, new opportunities shall be identified
for private and public sector investments and partnerships. We are in the 21st century, where technological
developments are at our fingertips. We should promote efficient utilization of
forest resources through appropriate technologies. And, at the same time, encourage the production
of forest value added products. Our rainforests are rich and have the capabilities
to provide a wide array of forest goods and services that would cater to economic diversification. With the right partnership, technology, and
renewable forest resources, we can never go wrong. During our inaugural summit in Sydney, we
discussed the practical and technical aspects of monitoring forests, combating illegal logging,
protecting biodiversity, promoting community and indigenous peoples’ participation in
forest management, and eliminating deforestation from the global supply chain. In this summit, we will be stepping ahead,
and will focus our discussions on sustainable financing opportunities and partnerships,
sustainable landscape management, policy frameworks, and green economies. I personally find our themes interesting and
very timely, for it is aligned with the current thrust of his majesty’s government for the
Brunei forestry sector. At the national level, we are continually
optimizing the benefits of our rainforests, which occupy more than half of the country’s
land area. Our economic diversification initiatives include
the forestry sector, with focus on forest industry, non-timber forest products, biological
prospecting, carbon trading, and efficiency in forest product processing and utilization. At present, we are reviewing our national
forestry strategies to promote our forest-based downstream industries. We intend to improve the forestry industry
environment to encourage further private investments in technologies and new machinery, to increase
our efficiency and manufacture value-added forest products. Aside from environmental attributes, we believe
that all forests have great economic potential. The high biodiversity index of Brunei forests
is an indication of the variety of non-timber forest products that are yet to be discovered. The explanation and research of these new
and indigenous forest products are jointly conducted by the government and academic sectors. Forests are renewable resources and, with
the proper conservation technologies, it can provide endless goods and services to our
society. Our forestry economic diversification initiative
is also in line with the strategies provided for by Wawasan 2035, stating our long term
national development plan. Specifically, the plan highlighted the continuing
efforts to conserve our remarkable biodiversity, rainforests, and natural habitats as part
of our environmental strategy. It also stresses the development of forest
resources, conservation and protection, and ecotourism, as the main focus of the forestry
sector. Almost half of our total land area is part
of the national forest estate. And as part of our commitment to further the
integrity of our environment, we intend to increase our forest estate to 55 per cent
of Brunei’s land area. With this reality and assumed responsibilities,
our forestry sector will be welcoming partners from the government and private sectors in
the sustainable management of our forests and forest resources. As such, we will need the entrepreneurial
and creative minds of the private sectors in developing our forest-based industry. We will be pleased to cooperate in the conduct
of research and expedition to understand further our diverse forest and learn new products
that are significant to our modern societies. We also believe in the capabilities of our
rainforests to sequester carbon as we open our windows to further study our forests in
reducing greenhouse gases. With all these development strategies in the
forestry sector, our government remains vigilant against the identified drivers of deforestation. As such, we have controlled agricultural expansion
and regulated forest conversion for agricultural purposes. The cutting of forests for agricultural development
was stopped. Instead, we are focusing our agricultural
initiatives on efficiency of production, thereby increasing the projected yield per hectare. We encourage investments in agriculture technology
development and high technology farming practices, including vertical farming. Likewise, our existing regulations on forest
product extraction must observe sustainability and promote natural regeneration of forest
resources. We have strengthened our forest law enforcement
activities through the establishment of multi-agency participation from the police force, from
the military, district authorities, and the forestry department. On a sub-regional context, the Heart of Borneo
initiative plays an important role in trans-boundary forest management, in minimizing deforestation
and the associated loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Brunei’s partnership with the Heart of Borneo
initiative has connected the country’s rainforests into the network of protected areas on the
island of Borneo. The partnership boosted our capabilities in
promoting sustainable management of forests and other sustainable land uses. Ladies and gentlemen, we are honored to host
this summit for us to learn more and improve our rainforest management strategies. We are happy to meet our government counterparts
and friends from the private sectors, and share the lessons learned from their home
countries. We are very glad to become your partners in
promoting our common objectives for the benefits of the Asia-Pacific community. In conclusion, I would like to wish everybody
a fruitful discussion. During our dialogue, let us uphold our commitments
made under the Paris Agreement. For Brunei, we are committed to reduce energy
consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and increase the area of forest reserves. Likewise, I would like to reiterate the fulfillment
of our 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Let us end poverty, protect our planet, and
ensure prosperity for all as part of our new Sustainable Development Goals. Before I end my remarks, I’d like to take
this opportunity to announce the launching of a booklet entitled Birdwatching in Brunei
Darussalam 2016. A guide to birds of Brunei Darussalam. The book aims to enhance the country’s pristine
nature tourism products, focusing on birdwatching – which has seen a greater progression during
the last three years. The booklet is intended not only to serve
as a general guide for birders on bird species endemic to Brunei, but also as a reference
for academics and the public, while creating awareness on the importance of wildlife conservation. Ladies and gentlemen, Brunei is small, but
we have a lot to offer. I’m inviting you to enjoy our environment,
our food, our culture, and our rainforest during your stay here in our country. As the host country, we will be pleased to
assist you to have a comfortable stay. Please feel free to move around and bring
some sweet memories back home. I am pleased to officially open the 2016 Asia-Pacific
Rainforest Summit. Thank you.

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