BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei has identified two sites that will connect with conservation areas in Malaysia and Indonesia to better manage forests in the Heart of Borneo (HoB) corridor.

The two sites — located in Belait and Temburong district — will link existing protected areas in Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia to become a biodiversity corridor. The protected areas are expected to span over 2,000 kilometres across the Borneo island.

The HoB Corridor Project Implementation is a trilateral effort under the HoB initiative to ensure landscape connectivity, as well as promote sustainable and traditional land use and forest management.

Brunei previously pledged 58 percent of its total land area to be used for forest conservation under the HoB initiative. In 2007, the three countries signed a joint declaration on the HoB transboundary collaboration to protect 220,000 square km of biodiversity, ecosystems and natural resources in Borneo.

Officials from the three countries gathered in Brunei on Tuesday for the 13th Heart of Borneo Trilateral Meeting which takes place until September 26.

Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism Permanent Secretary Pg Hj Kamalrudzaman Pg Hj Mohd Ishak said after 12 years, it is high time for the three member countries to think about how HoB can significantly contribute to economic development and economic diversification.

“I believe that we are in the right time to develop business portfolios for our green ecotourism, biodiversity conservation, our transboundary project and local community network,” he said in his speech during the meeting.

Representatives from Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia gather in the sultanate for the 13th Heart of Borneo Trilateral Meeting on Sept 24, 2019. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

In an interview with The Scoop, Indonesian Assistant Deputy Minister for Forest Governance Dr Prabianto Mukti Wibowo said even though the three countries have made progress at the national level, there is still much to be done trilaterally.

Dr Prabianto, who is also the head of delegation for Indonesia said, “There [is not a lot of] substantial output [at the] trilateral level, we are still lacking progress or achievements”.

“That’s why I suggested at this meeting that we have to rethink our meeting format. For example, during the technical committee [meeting] we should not repeat all the agenda that were already discussed, and instead come up with new ideas and proposals. We believe that with the strong commitment from the three member countries, we can manage our forests in a good way,” he said.

Dr Prabianto added that it is also important to link HoB initiative with the Sustainable Development Goals, which recognise the need for strategies to be developed sustainably for human lives and environmental protection.

The ongoing haze problem in the region was not part of the meeting’s agenda. Forest fires and hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia have resulted in poor air quality in neighbouring countries.

“I think there is not so much [haze] in the HoB area… Only at Sumatra islands and peninsula.. that is why we are not discussing the haze.” he added.