KOTA KINABALU: The State Government has launched a new set of Strategic Plan of  Actions (SPA) to address emerging challenges and take advantage of potential  opportunities to enhance conservation and management of the Heart of Borneo (HoB) landscape. 

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Hajiji Haji Noor said Sabah had made significant  strides in implementing programmes and projects set forth in the Second Sabah Strategic  Plan of Actions (SPA). 

However, given the rapidly changing economic, social and environmental landscape, a  new SPA (2021-2030) is needed to build on the achievements of its predecessor. 

“The achievements are underpinned by the following strengths of the Sabah HoB  Initiative: State and Federal Governments’ commitment towards the initiative; policy  continuity; the ability for key stakeholders to work together; and the ability to leverage the  HoB brand for funding and new partnerships,” he said at the opening of the Heart of  Borneo Symposium Sabah at the Sabah International Convention Centre here today. 

His speech at the symposium themed The Need for Holistic and Pragmatic Approaches  on Conservation Efforts was delivered by Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Agriculture  and Fisheries, Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Jeffrey Kitingan. 

The Chief Minister said several new features were introduced in the new SPA to further  align its focus moving forward representing strategic shifts critical to move the Sabah HoB  Initiative to higher gear towards conservation.  

“The goals of the focus area of the Sabah HoB SPA 2021-2030 are closely aligned with  the main goals of the key State’s and national’s development plans including the Haja  Tuju Sabah Maju Jaya Development Plan 2021-2025, Sabah Development Corridor  Blueprint 2021-2030 and the 12th Malaysia Plan 2021-2025,” he said. 

He said the launch of the SPA today was the beginning of awareness raising that would  be followed by roadshows throughout the state to further promote HoB.  

“Public awareness of HoB and its conservation efforts has always been a priority to  Sabah. Over the past years, roadshows, environmental education and training programmes to promote HoB Initiatives are conducted for teachers and local  communities, especially to those residing within or near the HoB landscape,” he said. 

The Sabah HoB, he said was also contributing to the country’s international commitments  such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),  Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze,  Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), Convention on International Trade in  Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the World Heritage  Convention (WHC).  

“While the SPA is committed to delivering the individual goals of the focus area, it  prioritises the achievement of the overall goals through the adoption of an integrated  policy approach.  

“This, together with the State Government’s commitment to put in place a more cohesive  institutional arrangement, the SPA is expected to contribute meaningfully to the various  state and national sustainable development agenda,” he said. 

He said the Sabah HoB, represented around 60 per cent of Malaysia’s Heart of Borneo  landscape and it holds one of the world’s remaining bastions of treasured biodiversity.  

“This is a place where communities with different cultures and social entities work and  live, and critically supports the local and State economy, while securing precious water  sources at the headwaters of all major river basins in Sabah.  

“Indeed, our forests are Sabah’s most valuable assets. Besides providing habitats for the  flora and fauna, it also offers water catchment protection, preventing soil erosion and  mitigating climate change,” he said.  

Hajiji said that 64 per cent of Sabah’s landmass are protected forest since 1990, of which  52 per cent were gazetted as Forest Reserves, State Parks, Wildlife Sanctuary and  also Wildlife Conservation Areas.  

“I am also pleased to hear that since the inception of the HoB Initiative, various  achievements have been accomplished by the State Government. For instance, the  Totally Protected Areas (TPAs) gazettement to up 1.9 million hectares, or about 26.4 per  cent of total Sabah’s landmass.  

“The State Government is also committed to expanding the size of its TPAs to 30 per cent  of Sabah’s land mass or about 2.2 million hectares by 2025.  

“This is in line with our Hala Tuju Sabah Maju Jaya (SMJ) Development Plan where  sustaining the environment through the HoB Initiative has been included as one of the  focuses under the Green Infrastructure and Sustainability Networks Thrust,” he said. 

New species continued to be discovered during periodic scientific expeditions within the  Sabah HoB areas, he said, adding it was crucial that this rich biodiversity is duly  safeguarded for the future generations of Sabah. 

The Chief Minister said the Government also recognised the crucial need to have inter agency cooperation and wide stakeholders participation.  

“It is important to adopt an open and broad partnership programme at the local and  international level as part of the efforts to institutionalise the conservation and  management of the environment and its resources.  

“We need to reach out to new partners to re-engage and build trust across the board.  

“The 99 types of collaboration entered between the State Government and various  partners in the past decade or so is a testament to our commitment to meaningful  partnership and we shall continue to do so,” he said. 

Hajiji thanked the Federal Government, particularly the Ministry of Energy and Natural  Resources, for supporting the HoB Initiative through the Malaysian Plan since 2009. The  Federal Government has provided a total of RM 47 million to Sabah for the HoB Initiative  implementation since 2009, and under the 12th Malaysia Plan, a total of RM 13 million  has been pledged by the Federal Government.  

“Thank you to WWF-Malaysia as well for their continuous support to the Sabah Forestry  Department, particularly in formulating the eSPA,” he said. 

Hajiji said the annual HoB International Conference is important, which had attracted over  6,000 participants since 2009, not only from Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia  as the HoB Initiative signatory countries but also from many other countries who have an  interest in tropical forests.  

“It is the go-to platform in Sabah to disseminate the latest knowledge and research results,  as well as to share ideas and exchange information concerning HoB with partners from  local and abroad,” he said.