Minister of Forestry explains Rosewood amnesty

vlcsnap-2013-04-09-20h20m22s203All of last week, PLUS News has been tracking developments in the rosewood trade which has seen would-be exporters carting off their goods from the Forestry compound in Belmopan and the Ministry suddenly advising of an amnesty in the trade that runs to April 26. All of this while Minister Lisel Alamilla has been away. Today she is back and called a special press briefing in Belize City to put all the controversy to rest. First, the amnesty remains in place and the Minister confirmed that it was a decision taken by all of the Cabinet and not just her alone – though she admitted that it was not one she was “excited about.” A frank admission – and she was equally frank about what the amnesty means.

Minister Lisel Alamilla:
vlcsnap-2013-04-15-21h55m11s123I see the amnesty period as essential to ensure that the Forest department accounts for the remaining volumes of harvested Rosewood material, and to permit the eventual sale and export,  This decision has been discussed and endorsed by Cabinet.  It is essential to conduct this activity, within the shortest possible time, provide all the necessary records, and account for all the material which has been declared, as well as to provide reports and accounts on all the material that has been confiscated by the Forest Department.

According to the Minister the sole purpose of the amnesty is to clear all remaining rosewood stock and start anew, conforming to CITES regulations which have placed Belize rosewood under the “endangered” category. Also, the Department is now maintaining its records and plans to do a full inventory of the resource that will guide future planning. But just in case anyone thought it was open season on the valuable material, the Minister says hold that thought.

Minister Lisel Alamilla:
vlcsnap-2013-04-08-20h43m48s54I want to be clear and explicit that Rosewood not declared for entry into the local or export market during this amnesty period will be illegal and ineligible for export at any point in the future. The restriction for trade of this species are clear and Belize will be in compliance with the trade regulations as per CITES.

vlcsnap-2013-04-12-21h08m37s50The Minister took responsibility for not releasing the decision earlier, stating that it had been discussed in Cabinet as early as last December and its actual implementation was postponed by the infamous fiery destruction of rosewood in Golden Stream in January. That action, the Minister says, largely put a stop to the heavy activity but did not do enough to end all the speculation and hence the amnesty. The 25,000 board feet of rosewood confiscated by the Government in Belmopan and stocks elsewhere have been sold to a company called GIV, headed by brother of the Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega, German Vega of Orange Walk. But before anyone can scream “nepotism,” the Minister pointed out that PUP’s are not exactly missing out on the rosewood bounty.
Minister Lisel Alamilla:
If you really follow the Rosewood trail, you will find out that this is not about PUP, that it’s not only UDPs who are involved in this, that really GIV is the exporter of the product.  The people they’re buying it from, and if I list the names, are all PUPs.  So who is benefiting are both PUPs, UDPs, and no Ps, just Joe Public. It is a fact that GIV is one of the largest exporters of Rosewood.  But anyone who gets material, and wants to export it, and has the connection, and has the financing to pay Government before they export it, they will be allowed to export this material.

Whether this will put an end to all the controversy remains to be seen.

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