Features — 19 April 2013 — by Miriam Longsworth

“No one caught in the act as yet …it’s difficult to penalize anyone for illegally harvesting rosewood because the material is not submitted to the Government directly from the seller.”

After Cabinet instructed that all the confiscated rosewood flitches be released for sale to exporters, the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development declared amnesty on rosewood from April 9 to the 26th, 2013.

The Ministry issued a press release on Wednesday, April 17, stating that Cabinet has agreed that no new illegally cut rosewood will be allowed to be exported under the Rosewood Amnesty Program.

The Ministry said that the amnesty was granted in order for persons who are in possession of harvested rosewood to submit their material to the Government.

Well, it seems that some unscrupulous persons have been taking advantage of the amnesty period. Reports are that several persons have been cutting down more rosewood trees.

The Ministry included in the press release that the Forest Department field staff can differentiate between freshly cut and old rosewood stock. Minister Lisel Alamilla has said before that any newly cut rosewood that is found or submitted would be confiscated by the Government and no compensation would be given for such timber.

The rosewood business is reportedly a million-dollar industry. The trade of this timber, which is endangered, now falls under regulations of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The amnesty has been granted for wood that was harvested before a moratorium was put in place. The moratorium is still in place, which is why the Ministry has announced that no new rosewood should be harvested. However, it’s still being done.

We have been told that the Forestry Department and the Toledo police department have been collaborating to monitor the illegal timber activities in the South, but what we haven’t heard is what the penalties would be for persons caught with newly cut timber.

Minister Alamilla is once again out of the country, so we contacted the CEO of the Forest Department, Wendel Parham, who told us that it’s difficult to penalize anyone for illegally harvesting rosewood because the material is not submitted to the Government directly from the seller.

The timber is sold to the traders, who do not keep track of where the timber was extracted, and the traders submit the material to the Government.

Parham said that they know for sure that several persons have been cutting rosewood from other people’s properties, but no one has been caught in the act as yet.

He told us that if they find anyone who is suspected of illegally harvesting rosewood, that person would be arrested and would go through normal court procedures to be charged for possession of illegal wood and illegal cutting.

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