EU envoy to Malaysia impressed with Sabah's sustainable oil palm practices

Rochas (left) in a meeting with Hajiji at the Sabah Chief Minister's official residence in Kota Kinabalu on May 24, 2022.

KOTA KINABALU: European Union ambassador to Malaysia Michalis Rochas is impressed with Sabah's sustainable oil palm development practices and is keen to keep Brussels updated.

Amid the strong anti-palm oil lobby in Europe, Rochas told Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor that he was impressed with efforts for the sustainable development of the oil palm industry as well conservation of orangutans.

In a statement issued by the Chief Minister's Department, Rochas told Hajiji that there was a misconception about palm oil among EU countries which needed to be corrected.

"I have seen it myself and it (conservation efforts) is very commendable. I was thrilled to see for myself an orangutan and its baby, although from afar." said Rochas who visited Sawit Kinabalu's oil palm plantation, among others, where he observed environmental conservation efforts by the Sabah government.

Rochas, who went on a helicopter survey, also found many orangutan nests in trees, indicating all is well for the species.

"But the EU doesn't know about this yet. We need to go back and give the true impression of the situation in Sabah.

"I will convey this to Brussels (EU headquarters). I want to correct and enhance the view on the oil palm industry in Malaysia.

"Your forest is an asset, a world heritage and that is why we care about it," he told Hajiji during their meeting at his official Sri Gaya residence here on Tuesday (May 24).

Rochas also offered assistance on biodiversity conservation with EU funding to Sabah as well as to improve collaboration between the EU and the state with technical support and expertise.

"Malaysia is an important country to the EU. About 40% of EU trade passes through South China Sea and Malaysia is strategically located in the maritime route, such as in the Straits of Malacca," he said, adding that he looks forward to enhancing partnership in view of the wealth of potential partnerships in trade and conservation efforts.

Rochas had also invited NGOs such as WWF-Malaysia, Blu Hope and Stop Fish Bombing Malaysia to share the status of their projects, all partially or wholly sponsored by the EU.

Earlier, Hajiji said Sabah had always promoted sustainable practices in oil palm cultivation, contrary to what EU anti-palm oil lobbyists say when spreading a negative image of the industry over the years.

Hajiji said that Sabah has done much to meet the national commitment of maintaining 50% of forest cover and ensuring 52% of the state's forest are permanent forest reserves, parks and wildlife conservation areas.

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