The nation’s forestry industry regulator, Solomon Forest Association (SFA), has appealed to the Government to stop illegal logging activities in the country, saying the practice is getting out of hand.
“The SFA is ready to deregister any of its member(s) found to be breaking the law here. But I want to stress that the Association alone cannot do this,” an SFA spokesman said on Monday.
The spokesman was responding to newspaper reports that an Asian company, Richfield Timber Company Ltd had landed machineries in West Guadalcanal in defiance of a High Court Order issued by Justice Rex Foukona on 27 April this year.
According to the report, the company landed its machineries and equipment at Kokomu Seafront 0n 29 April this year, two days after the High Court Order was issued against it.
To date, one kilometre of road has been built inland.
The spokesman said the SFA is aware that some of its members were the culprits but added that without the Government’s help, the situation would only get worse.
“The Government must act. The police must act. The Commissioner of Forest must act. We simply cannot sit here and allow people to disregard the law, using SFA as a cover for their illegal activities,” the spokesman said.
“Competent authorities must now formalise a Moratorium on new logging companies so that a measure of control is introduced in the industry. Without that, there is no hope,” the spokesman said.
He said the SFA is of the understanding that Cabinet had already endorsed the Moratorium.
“That was about a year ago. It now appears competent authorities have done nothing since, allowing corrupt logging operations to continue unabated, demonstrating as we have seen in this case, a complete disregard for the law of the land,
“I must warn that unless the Government takes immediate and urgent steps to address this problem in the forestry industry, we will dissolve the SFA so that everyone has a level playing field when it comes to corruption in this country,” he said.
The spokesman said SFA has consistently raised the matter with the Government, both in writing as well as verbally.
The SFA last wrote to the Commissioner of Forests about the matter as late as April this year.
In its letter titled, Legal Notice 114 – Forest Resources and Timber Utilisation (Licensing and Tree Felling) Regulation 2007, the SFA said:
“In reference to the above subject matter, the Solomon Forest Association request a formal response on why this particular Regulation is neither being applied nor enforced by the Ministry of Forestry and Research as a legal requirement under the Forest and Timber Utilisation Act (Cap 40) “ (the Act).
“In the absence of effective regulatory enforcement by the relevant authorities, Solomon Islands forest resources will continue to be depleted at an unsustainable rate,” the letter dated 15 April 2016, said.
The letter said an important part of the Regulation is restriction on issuing licences to new logging companies (that) are not members of the Association.
“Regulations 7, 8 and 9 of Legal Notice 114 are quite clear as to their application, yet licences continue to be issued in direct contravention of these regulations,” the letter said.
It is understood that since Cabinet endorsed the Moratorium 12 months ago, more than 20 new logging companies have been issued licences by the Commissioner of Forests.
By Alfred Sasako