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31 July 2014

Forest commissioner authorised export, refuse to face media

The Solomon Islands Forests Commissioner Reeves Moveni has allegedly authorised the Southern Pacific Wood Company, a Taiwanese owned company to export tubi round logs worth at nearly $2 million SI dollars early this month.

The company only has a milling license to operate on San Jorge which was later cancelled in 12th July 2013 by Mr Moveni as they illegally entered the Gothaha-Thagoma land. 

According to document cited by this paper, the company continued to export under the cancelled license on 13th July 2014.

The recent export was carried out under the cancelled license and the export documents were authorised by the Forestry Commissioner again.

The cancelled export permit number is K 251/14 and license Number 201334.

The document also shown that the export destination was Kaohsiung Port, Taiwan ROC on board MV SOOCHOW V.109 

The export was also done following continuous extraction and offloading from the Gothaha-Thagoma land in San Jorge Island, Isabel Province.

Mr Nolan Jolo who was the rightful land owner of the Gothaha-Thagoma land who successfully won his case in the high court against a Taiwanese logger and have him brought to justice  questioned the legality of the Company’s continuous ripping off their resources as well as why the forests commissioner Mr Moveni authorised the export of Tubi Round logs.

“I have successfully won my case against the two companies operating in my land at the High Court of Solomon Islands. The first company is the Chunsol Company Ltd and Kamen Trading Company Ltd.

“There is an injunction order against harvesting and exporting of Tubi from my land.

“Now they illegally came in and operated as loggers, despite of the cancelation of their licence since 2013.

“Also now we know that the forest commissioner Mr Moveni who earlier cancelled the SPW’s Ltd milling license operation, last week approved the export permit for the same company.

“There’s daylight corruption going on. I have all the documents to prove something fishy is going on. This case is before the courts!”

But when this paper approached forestry office for comments, Mr Moveni asked his secretary not to allow the reporter to have an interview with him. (See separate story).

The secretary told off this writer who tried to get comments from the commissioner.

“He was here but you cannot talk to him. What I tell you is final!”

She referred this writer to the permanent secretary who said Mr Moveni was the right person to talk to.

This reporter returned to Mr Moveni’s office but the secretary who is a woman told this reporter to leave.

The PS and the commissioner earlier kept referring this reporter to each other when this reporter tried to get them by phone.

An independent environmental lawyer spoken to yesterday said it was not right for the forests commissioner to issue an export permit. 

“It's strange that the commissioner of forests is issuing an export permit. For tubi, this should be issued by the director of environment and can only be issued if the tubi is going to be used for scientific research purposes.

Customs controller Mr Nathan Kama when questioned as to why they allowed the export that was done on 13th of this month said he was not aware of the export.

This raises another question if customs officers have been checking and inspecting what goods were being exported.

“Probably, there would be export done, but I am not aware of that,” Mr Kama said.

Documents this paper cited stated that in December 2013, 49 containers of Tubi round log owned by a Taiwanese national was held up at Ranadi following the ruling by the high court.

Director of Environment Mr Joe Horokou earlier approved the export of round log tubi, but also said that no firms were yet to be approved for exporting.

“We have not approved any firms yet at the moment to export tubi.” 

Since the opening up of the new log pond near the Warkworth oil Area in Lunga Point on 3rd July, LC Atlantic Puffin offloaded tubi logs almost every day at the log pond.

The where about of the loaded containers are is still largely unknown, but they were believed to be kept at the Ports area awaiting shipment.

Summary of the law

All commercial tubi exports are illegal under Solomon Islands legislation (unless this has been changed). The Director of Environment has no power to approve a shipment of tubi unless it is for 'scientific research purposes'. (section 11(1) of the Wildlife Protection and Management Act) by an approved experienced wildlife exporter. The Act lists tubi in Schedule 1 of the Act and the export of Schedule 1 species is prohibited unless for scientific research purposes.

- The forestry legislation mirrors the Wildlife Protection and Management Act. The Forest Resources (Protected Species) Regulations 2012 (reg 3) clearly state that tubi may only be exported if it is for scientific research purposes and the Director of Environment has issued a permit under the Wildlife Protection and Management Act.

If there was a shipment it is possible the company committed a criminal offence under section 11(3) of the Wildlife Protection and Management Act (unless the Schedule to the Act has been recently changed).

The companies will be liable for fines ($5000) and their directors may be liable to gaol terms (up to 6 months). All items and objects used can be forfeited to the government - this can include more than just the logs but also the company's ship and equipment (section 13 of the Wildlife Act) .