There is no political interference into the issuance of export permit to non-registered Solomon Forest Association (SFA) members as claimed by Alfred Sasako in his article in the Island Sun Newspaper today.
Mr Sasako claims that the Ministry of Forestry and Research in the recent weeks has been pressured to issue export permit, defying an understanding between the Government and logging industry watchdog, SFA.
According to Legal Notice 114 that was approved by Cabinet in 2007, it states only SFA members are allowed to fell trees and export them from Solomon Islands.
Not until 01st of January 2017, after consultations, the Ministry then starts implementing it; as a result it affects a number of logging companies with no SFA membership.
Commissioner of Forests, Reeves Moveni clarifies felling license and export permits were first issued to all logging companies on submissions of applications prior to enforcing the Legal Notice 114 – Forest Resource and Timber Utilisation (Timber Licensing and Tree Felling) Regulation 2007.
The issue on “Issuance of export permit to the non-registered SFA members as claimed and highlighted by Island Sun is true but based on the valid Technical Agreement with advice from the Attorney General Chambers.
“There are a good number of them with valid technical agreements endorsed by the Commissioner of Forests prior to the effective date of moratorium implementation.
“As such, the Ministry, since implementation of Legal Notice 114 has been working on noticing the non-registered SFA members to wind down their operations and the licensees are being asked to replace non-registered SFA members with existing SFA members,” he said.
“There was nothing such as any political pressure claimed.”
The Commissioner of Forest further explains in actual fact, those non-registered SFA members who have applied for export permit were given a one off sale based on their valid technical agreement signed with local licensees.
And because they are not SFA members, they are also served with a seven (7) days’ cancellation notice in the recent weeks.
This covers those non registered SFA members that have their agreements initially approved prior to the enforcement of Legal Notice 114 and yet to export their harvested round logs.
Including those non registered SFA members that entered into contracting agreement with any SFA existing member and licensee holder, he said.
As such, any application for export license or permit by any deemed non-members of SFA are or will be withheld, Commissioner Moveni said.
Permanent Secretary, Vaeno Vigulu acknowledges the role played by the Solomon Forest Association as the watchdog and is keen to see more close cooperation.
He also cautions foreign logging companies wanting to apply for new felling license and those wishing to make any agreement with any local licensees.
“The Ministry of Forest will not be accepting any new applications for Felling Licences from Foreign logging companies.
“And the Commissioner will not endorse any more technical agreement signed by local Licensees and new foreign logging companies.”
The Permanent Secretary says the Ministry of Forestry and Research equally believes in providing one set of rule for everyone in the logging industry as the sole logging regulator in the country.
“And will not allow any logging company to operate outside that one set of rule for everyone as the level playing ground,” he adds.