The Commissioner of Forests, James Singh, has responded to an article appearing in this newspaper’s August 7 edition which referred to the operations of Bai Shan Lin with respect to various requirements in relation to Guyana’s logging laws.
The following is Mr. Singh’s response in its entirety:
The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) refers to an article in the Thursday August 7 2014 edition of Kaieteur News under the caption: “Bai Shan Lin circumvents Guyana’s logging laws… Ships Billions $$$$ of high priced logs monthly”.
GFC, as the Government of Guyana Agency responsible for the sustainable management of the state forest advises the general public that this article is riddled with false assumptions and misinformation; to ensure that stakeholders are provided with the undisputable facts, GFC is compelled to respond to this unprofessional article.
Firstly, GFC asserts that there is no circumventing of Guyana’s logging laws by Bai Shan Lin (BSL) or any other forestry sector based company. The GFC has very robust and functional systems, procedures and guidelines which all forest sector companies are audited against; if there are any breaches to these, appropriate action is taken based on the findings of a thorough investigation and in accordance with the forest law.
The statement the BSL does not have an actual license for the exportation of logs is simply not factual. BSL has two State Forest Exploratory Permits (SFEP’s); Section 9 (2) (b) of the Forests Act 2009 allows for the harvesting of forest produce from SFEP’s for limited commercial purposes and BSL can then export this produce in log form if it so chooses, in accordance with the National Log Export Policy.
GFC also has very effective and thorough export procedures in place- all forest produce to be exported must be verified by a GFC Grading Inspector and the required documentation must be properly completed and verified prior to export. The GFC Internal Audit Unit also carries out very detailed checks at strategic locations including the ports of export to verify that there is compliance with the GFC protocols.
Contrary to the false impression portrayed, BSL and its JV partners have exported a total of 375 containers for the period January – June 2014; this is not something confined to BSL since many other large companies are also exporting logs in appreciable quantities.
Export, however, was in keeping with the National Log Export Policy. It must be remembered that this policy was developed consultatively by stakeholders, the majority of whom supported an increase in the rate of the export commission, rather than a complete ban on log exports as suggested by the GFC.
The allegation that BSL has opted for joint venture deals (JV) with other companies to circumvent the GFC requirements is also without merit.
GFC Board of Directors as part of its work plan holds regular meetings with stakeholder groups across the country.
At these meetings, one of the prominent concerns was the inadequate capacity of concessionaires (mainly locals) to beneficially occupy areas and produce sufficient quantities of logs/lumber for the local construction industry, as well as for the local added value manufacturers, and for export.
The Concessionaires themselves proposed two short term measures to address this, namely:
GFC to allow joint venture arrangements after the requisite due diligence was done, and GFC was satisfied that the JV had merit
GFC to allow companies that lacked adequate and/or appropriate machinery to rent same from third parties in a structured and properly monitored/regulated manner.
Based on these requests by the sector; the need to improve log/lumber/added value production, and generate additional employment opportunities, and being assured by the GFC that its monitoring systems would ensure that the allowable harvest levels would not be exceeded, the GFC Board approved both requests.
GFC has since facilitated both requests in accordance with the legislation and a very transparent and organized procedure.
For example, it was collaboratively agreed (stakeholders/GFC/ GFC Board) that the procedure for the review of joint venture requests would be as follows:
A request to enter into a joint venture arrangement needs to be made by the company/individual that has legal access to state forest
A thorough background assessment would be done on the company that is seeking to joint venture with the one that has the legal access to the forested land
This assessment would be used to guide the GFC in making its recommendations to the GFC Board Technical Sub-Committee
The GFC Technical Sub-Committee after their review would submit a recommendation to the GFC Board of Directors.
The GFC Board then makes its recommendation as to whether to approve/disapprove the joint venture.
This is in keeping with Section 16 of the Forests Act 2009.
BSL has entered into approved JV’s following this process, contrary to the “landlording” and “illegality “assertion by Global Timber. Another incorrect assertion is the pronouncement that “BSL has been granted a forestry concession that amounts to close to one million hectares of rainforest”… BSL has legal access to 627,072 ha as shown below:
344,849 ha as State Forest Exploratory Permits (SFEP’s) – an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA); a Forest Inventory (FI), and a Business Plan have to be submitted to the satisfaction of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and GFC before a Timber Sales Agreement (TSA) is granted which allows for full scale harvesting in accordance with GFC guidelines is approved
274,053 ha as Timber Sales Agreement Joint Venture Agreements 8,170 ha as State Forest Permissions
This has been widely publicized in the print and electronic media and BSL has been written to instructing them to correct the erroneous claim that they have access to 960,000 ha.
The article also alludes that GFC is taking a back seat in these matters; this is bordering on the ridiculous since the GFC takes its mandate of “ensuring sustainable forestry” very seriously; something that is recognized not only nationally, but regionally and globally.
GFC would again appeal to stakeholders, especially those in the public media, to verify the facts before publicizing erroneous information.”
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