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5. Brunei Darussalam

Country data

Total land area (thousand ha in 1998)


Total forest area 1998 (thousand ha)/% of total area **


Natural forest 1998 (thousand ha)**


Total change in forest cover 1995-98 (thousand ha)/Annual change (%)**


Population in 1998 (million)/Annual rate of change 1990-98 (%)*


Rural population 1998 in %*


GNP per person total 1998 in US$


Source of data:

* Brunei Darussalam Statistical Yearbook
** Information submitted to FAO - input for FRA 2000

General information

Brunei Darussalam is situated on the north-west coast of the island of Borneo with a coastline of about 130 km. The country is endowed with extensive forests. Even though the proportion of forest cover of the country is large, the forest resource available for the development of timber industry is limited, as the actual area of the country is exceedingly small.

Brunei Darussalam has a tropical climate with high humidity and rainfall. The average daily temperature is about 28°C and the annual rainfall ranges from 2,790 mm in lowland areas to more than 3,810 mm in many parts of the interior, particularly from November to March.

Economically, Brunei Darussalam is still heavily dependent on the production of crude oil and natural gas. The country is known to be the third largest oil producer in Southeast Asia with a production of 163,000 barrels per day. It is also the fourth largest producer of liquefied natural gas in the world. Apart from crude oil and natural gas revenues, rents, royalties, taxes and investment dividends also support the country’s economy.

Due to the non-renewable nature of oil and gas, measures have been taken to diversify the economy by encouraging development in other fields through a series of Five-Year National Development Plans (NDP). The current Plan, covering the period 1996-2000, is the 7th in the series and primarily aims at giving an all-around enhancement to all facets of life of the people, with emphasis on economic diversification through the development of export-oriented and non-oil based industries. For this current plan the Government has allocated a total of B$ 7.2 billion for the implementation of various development projects and programmes, with social services taking the biggest share at B$ 1.98 billion. The rest is divided amongst the following: public utilities, B$ 1.58 billion; transport and communications, B$ 1.40 billion; industry and commerce, B$ 907.66 million; public buildings, B$ 623.83 million; security, B$ 528.10 million; and miscellaneous, B$ 173.30 million.

Forest resources

Brunei’s forests are classified into two types: 1) gazetted forest reserves, which cover an area of about 235,520 ha, or approximately 40% of the total land area; and 2) State-land Forests. The management of the forest reserves is under the jurisdiction of the Forestry Department, one of the arms of the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources. Most of the forest reserves are made up of primary forest, which is divided into 6 categories, namely: 1) mangrove, 2) freshwater swamp, 3) peat swamp, 4) kerangas or tropical heath, 5) mixed dipterocarp, and 6) montane. The rest are mixtures, i.e. plantation and secondary forests.

The forests are managed on an optimal, sustainable and ecologically sound basis. The main economic forestry objectives are as follows: attaining long-term self-sufficiency in timber production and the supply of other essential forest products; promoting downstream processing for high value-added products; tapping forest biodiversity for industrial biotechnology; boosting ecotourism; and developing a competitive forestry niche in the international market. All of these are geared toward maximising the contribution of the forestry sector in the Government’s national economic diversification programme.

But more importantly, the forests are managed for their inherent protection and conservation values. These include the protection of the natural life-support systems, maintenance of environmental amenities, promotion of scientific endeavours and nature education, and perpetuation of the national patrimony.

Policy and strategy

The preamble of the 1989 National Forestry Policy of Brunei states as follows:

“In pursuance of national development objectives and consistent with global strategies on biogeocology in which the forests play a vital role, the government commits itself to conserve, develop, and manage its forest resources for the preservation and improvement of the quality of life; the promotion of social, political, and economic well-being of the people, and technological progress of the country; and for bringing about environmental amenity and ecological equilibrium over a time continuum”.

Within this policy context, the Forestry Department, in facing the new challenges and opportunities in the new millennium, has redirected its focus in carrying out its long-term development goals. The recent developments and new realities have necessitated major changes in strategic approach, planning, and execution with directed emphasis on a proactive instead of reactive style. In doing so, the Forestry Department has spelled out its specific vision and mission as a set of objectives that need to be achieved.

Hence, the vision of the Forestry Department in going into the next millennium is excellent regarding tropical forestry. Its mission is to manage the forests of the country in an efficient and effective manner towards attaining this vision. Specifically, the Forestry Department is committed to:

1. dedicating at least 55% of the total land area as permanent forest estates or forest reserves;.

2. rational natural resource allocation and sustainable multiple-use forest utilisation;

3. developing a 3-pronged National Forestry Strategic Plan, consisting of Environmental Forestry, Industrial Forestry, and Excellence in Tropical Forestry;

4. streamlining the organisation of forest administration;

5. formulating and executing a forest development programme for industrial forest involving silvicultural management of natural and man-made forests and dynamic forest management regimes;

6. formulating and undertaking a programme of rehabilitation of degraded lands in the country;

7. formulating and implementing a conservation programme for environmental forests, involving preservation of ecosystems, establishment of resource conservation, documentation centres, etc.;

8. developing and implementing a management, exploitation, and development plan for the production forests and remaining forests on state lands;

9. formulating and carrying out a development plan for recreational forests and national parks, including remote eco-tourism and scientific undertaking;

10. formulating and putting into action a programme of forestry extension and education;

11. formulating and enforcing a national forest protection plan;

12. formulating and executing a programme on generation and transfer of forest technology; and

13. establishing international linkages and putting Brunei on the map of global forestry.

In order to implement the forestry strategic plan, the following policies, with respect to the management and utilisation of forest resources and the development of the forest-based industries of the country, have been enunciated:

1. Local citizen participation in private companies
Private companies intending to get involved with forest industries and related activities must have local citizen participation, to the extent of at least 51% of equity.

2. No export of logs
In order to achieve sustainability of forests, including sufficient supply of forest products for future domestic requirements, the Government has not allowed any export of logs. This policy is apart from the cut in the logging rate. To offset shortfalls in log supply, the Govern-ment has permitted saw millers to import their log input or sawn timber needs.

3. Import of raw materials for local processing encouraged
Aside from the import of sawlogs for the sawmills, the Government has also encouraged the import of other raw or semi-processed materials for processing in the country. This is expected to further spur the development of the forest-based industry. These include pre-worked or pre-fabricated components, e.g. for furniture making.

4. Export of value-added products encouraged
A further step to the above is the Govern-ment-initiated stimulation for export of finished products, particularly high value-added items resulting from downstream processing.

In anticipation of the state of forestry in the 21st century and bearing in mind the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, the Forest Department has crafted a “5-star excellent strategy” as follows:

Star 1: Forest for Posterity and Prosperity Perpetuate our forests; they are our heritage and the key to our prosperity.


· manage and protect at least 55% of the country’s total land area as permanent forest reserves;

· complete the Brunei National Herbarium and make it fully operational (target: 30,000 specimens);

· establish the Brunei Tropical Biodiversity Centre and later, the Royal Brunei Botanic Gardens;

· publish the flora and fauna of Brunei.

Star 2: Forest for Sustainable Production Make and keep our forest resources productive in a sustainable, optimal and environmentally friendly way.


· revise and effectively enforce forestry laws and regulations;

· develop and maintain a natural production forest stock as a strategic reserve;

· increase the productivity of natural production forests through inventory and silvicultural treatments (long-term target - 50,000 ha);

· develop timber plantations (long-term target - 30,000 ha) in order to supply the domestic wood requirements of the country on a sustainable basis;

· develop rattan and bamboo plantations (target 10,000 ha and 1,000 ha respectively); prevent and control forest fires.

Star 3: Forest for Economic Strength Maximise the contribution of the forestry sector in our national economic diversification programme


· rationalise the primary forest industries;

· facilitate and support the development of downstream, value-added, export, and non-traditional industries (e.g. biotechnology, eco-tourism);

· develop private forestry industries;

· facilitate and increase the forestry sector’s contribution to the GDP.

Star 4: Forest for Public Involvement and Enjoyment Provide recreational opportunities and foster nature education for our people.


· complete the establishment of the national park, designated ecoparks and forest recreation parks;

· efficient implementation of the social and community forestry projects;

· undertake an effective forestry extension and education programme.

Star 5: Forest for International Prestige Achieve “world-class” stature for Brunei Darussalam in the field of tropical forestry.

In addition to the above, the Forestry Department has entered a new era facing the new challenges in a rapidly changing world. The emphasis focuses on a pro-active instead of reactive management approach. The call of the day is management of results rather than management by mere objectives (since attainment of set objectives does not actually yield desired results). Management results should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bounded (SMART).

Planning and forest management

The rapid development of the forestry sector in Brunei Darussalam commenced under the 5th National Development Plan (NDP) of 1986-1990. Within this period, the National Forestry Policy was adopted in 1989, followed by the Forestry Strategic Plan. Several projects were initiated, including establishment of the forest nursery, recreational parks, and a pilot timber plantation in Sg. Liang.

During the 6th NDP (1991-1995), more projects were implemented. These included expansion or development of the forestry nursery, recreational parks, wood preservation, timber plantations, rattan plantations, herbarium, ex-situ conservation centre, inventory of natural rattan resources, wood-working workshop, pilot bamboo plantations, forest road network, Ulu Temburong National Park, and waste land rehabilitation. Under the 7th NDP (1996-2000), the Forestry Department has adopted a result-oriented approach to project planning and implementation. The budget allocated to support projects in the 7th NDP is more than double that of the 6th NDP, i.e. $40.3 million in the 6th and $105.2 million in the 7th NDP.

As stated in the 1986 National Master Plan, the land is apportioned as follows: gazetted forest reserves - 40%; proposed forest reserves - 15%; other conservation areas - 2%; agriculture farms - 2%; uncommitted state land - 37%; resettlement areas - 1%; urban and residential zones - 2%; and gravel and white sand deposits - 1%.

The tropical forests of Brunei are divided into five functional categories: a) protection forest (for critical watersheds and ecological preserves); b) conservation forest (for natural habitats, wildlife sanctuaries, as well as for specific areas of scientific and education values); c) recreation forest (for outdoor recreation); d) national park (for large ecological and biological representation promoting nature research, education, eco-tourism and cultural preservation; and e) production forest (for supply of timber and other essential forest products).

The Forestry Department, established in 1933, was one of the pioneer government agencies in Brunei. The Forest Act was first promulgated in 1934. In the early years, forestry administration was concerned mainly with the collection of revenue; a minimal volume of timber and non-wood forest products was harvested, including latex of jelutong for domestic and export purposes. In the past few years, most of the development activities have been focused on the rational exploitation and management of the commercial natural forest, particularly the mixed dipterocarp forests.

Previously, the silviculture system that was adopted for the mixed dipterocarp forest was the Malayan Uniform System (MUS), patterned after the practice in Peninsular Malaysia. However, the local site conditions are distinctly different from those in Peninsular Malaysia. In hilly dipterocarps, the trees are not evenly distributed. There is sparse and poorly distributed regeneration with low tolerance to heavy damage to soil and residual stands during harvesting. The condition of logged over dipterocarps in Andulau and Ladan Hill forest reserves, to which MUS had been applied, is poor and unproductive even after 30 years. Due to these results, the Brunei Selective Felling System (BSFS), which is equivalent to selective felling practised in Malaysia, Indonesia and in the Philippines, was introduced in 1986. However, the BSFS adopts a longer cutting cycle of 60-70 years.

The peat swamp and mangrove forests have no established or prescribed silviculture system as yet. In view of the importance of mangrove forests for the fishery and aquaculture industries, their conservation will be given a higher priority. Because of this, the Pulau Selirong mangrove forest ecopark, that was once a production forest, has been re-classified as a conservation ecotourism reserve.

In regard to the heath forest (kerangas), due to their unique characteristics and the rapid developments taken place surrounding this forest ecosystem, conservation of this forest is also accorded high importance. One measure has been to rehabilitate degraded areas with the same species i.e. Agathis boornensis.

To support forest management and development strategies, the operations and research facilities at the Brunei Forestry Centre at Sungai Liang are being upgraded into a dynamic field operations and R&D centre. Technical and support personnel are being trained to carry out its functions more efficiently and effectively.

Advantages of the plan

There are a number of advantages that can be cited to favour effective implementation of the Plan, such as:

1. Large portion of forest cover
The predominant forest cover of the country provides great potential for forestry to be developed as a major primary resource. With proper planning, efficient management of its forest resources, and appropriate research support, the forestry sector can play a vital role in the country’s programme for economic diversification.

2. Availability of financial resources
The financial crisis that has adversely affected the region appears to be abating. With the increasing trend in the price of oil - up to B$ 26 per barrel lately, the economy of the country will soon again rise up to its former healthy level. Hence, the strong financial position of the country can adequately support the development of the forestry sector in the future. This normally requires substantial investments that would extend for a period of time before significant returns can be obtained. Thus, steady and adequate financial support from the government is essential to ensure the success of the plan.

3. Low logging rate
There is less pressure for large-scale exploitation of the forest resources of Brunei. In fact, a logging cut policy has been imposed since 1990. The logging rate from the natural production forest has been reduced from 200,000 m3 to 100,000 m3 annually. This has contributed significantly to the conservation of the country’s forest resources.

4. Favourable social and political situation in the country
Common problems in forest protection such as shifting cultivation and illegal logging, which have been identified as major culprits of forest destruction in most tropical countries, are minimal if not negligible in the country. This can be attributed to the fact that socio-economic, as well as political problems, which are perennial problems, particularly in the developing countries, are non-existent in Brunei Darussalam.

5. Accessibility of operations
The country’s forest operation areas are limited and easily accessible, which can ensure a high standard of planning and effective execution of such plans. There are only 24 sawmills operating in the country with their concession areas within 15-25 km from the mills. Supervision and monitoring of their operations can be satisfactorily done with appropriate staff allocation.

6. Parallel technical information available as a base
There is a wealth of technical information on tropical forest management available, including in its neighbouring ASEAN countries, which Brunei Darussalam can easily access. However, the country should study it with caution and note not only their successes and strengths, but their weaknesses and failures as well.

7. Resources/strategic planning study
Brunei Darussalam has undertaken a national forest resource and strategic planning study that will provide valuable reference and guidance in the preparation of a detailed strategic plan.

8. Vast biological potential existing in Brunei Darussalam
The high diversity and richness of Brunei Darussalam’s forests equals a vast storehouse of genetic materials that can be conserved and investigated for their potential socio-economic values. Examples include the many wild relatives of useful crop plants and fruit trees that may be suitable in the agricultural industries for crop improvement, a rich variety of rattans that could be exploited, and potentially valuable medicinal and ornamental plant species. The intrinsic richness and well-preserved condition of Brunei Darussalam’s forests are attractive to scientists, conservationists and tourists alike, and favour the development of research centres and natural areas of international repute.


Although there are a number of advantages that can be cited to favour effective implementation of the plan, there are also some limitations and constraints, which have to be resolved, including the following:

1. Shortage of trained manpower
The local timber industry will continue to rely on expatriates for expertise, including non-skilled labour, until such time when locals are encouraged and trained to assume the job.

2. High Labour cost
The cost of labour is considerably high and makes forestry endeavour expensive and thus less economical.

3. Relatively small forest/country area
The forest resource would just be ideal and adequate enough to sustain the local demand, if managed wisely. Any attempt to introduce large-scale exploitation of the forest resource could endanger the future of the entire forestry industry and influence the fragile environmental balance of the country.

Focal point
Hj. Abdul Rahman H.C
Director, Forestry Department
Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources
Bandar Seri Begawan BB 33910
Brunei Darussalam
Tel: 02-381687 ext. 2222: 02-381013
Fax: 02-381012


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