Features — 24 May 2013 — by Adele Ramos
Rosewood amnesty to yield over $210,000 in royalties for GOB

Official information provided to the press by the Forest Department indicates that from April 11 to 26, 2013, a total of $185,111.40 was paid in royalties to the Government of Belize by several vendors from places like Columbia Village, Trio Village, Deep River, Mafredi, Boom Creek Village, Benque Viejo, Midway Village, Jacintoville, and Eldridge Ville for rosewood harvested during the period of amnesty.

At the time of the report, royalty payment of about $25,000 to the government was pending for 47,000 board feet from the villages of Santa Teresa and Boom Creek.

The tallied payments were for roughly 125,000 board feet of rosewood which were declared to the Forest Department back in April.

The inventory awaiting exportation also includes 150,000 board-feet which the Department reports were obtained from Millroom Lumber Yard Ltd., but because the volume was assessed before the moratorium, they are listed for shipment purposes only. Chief Forest Officer Wilber Sabido said that royalty has already been received for this batch of rosewood.

The data also show that there were 17,000 board feet of rosewood obtained by three vendors under permits issued in 2004 and 2011, which is in inventory, and so they are not counted with the illegal rosewood obtained under the amnesty program.

The Chief Forest Officer said that they are now supervising the loading of the rosewood onto containers for export. Amandala understands that the exportation will be done from the Belize City port, with China being the target market for the shipment.

7 News Director Jules Vasquez asked Sabido whether they have encountered any rosewood that had been cut post-amnesty, and Sabido indicated that a small percentage, probably 1 to 5% of the total that has been declared, had been freshly cut.

The Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development had confirmed that despite a moratorium being declared on the harvesting of rosewood in March 2012, some loggers continued to illegally harvest rosewood for sale and export.

On Friday, January 11, 2013, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development Lisel Alamilla led the burning of 700 pieces of illegally harvested rosewood, which sparked mixed reactions within the Barrow administration.

Over the past year, there have been a series of rosewood scandals, including the disappearance of confiscated rosewood off government property.

The ministry later announced that it had decided to permit the sale/export of rosewood already harvested over the period of April 8 – 26, 2013, to avoid the complete loss of value. Based on a Cabinet directive, the rosewood would be exported by German Vega, brother of Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega, and Government would get 50% of the proceeds while the exporter would get the rest.

Government has underscored that on March 14, 2013, at the 16th Session of the Conference of the Parties on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a decision was taken to regulate the international trade of rosewood, which means that harvest and export of rosewood from Belize now falls under the CITES regulations.

Sabido said that Belize could be blacklisted if its rosewood exports exceed figures reported at the end of the amnesty, but Belize could also lose its credibility.

The pending rosewood shipment would be the first since CITES decided to list the three species of rosewood available in Belize under Appendix II with trade restrictions.

Of note is that Belize had actively lobbied for the listing of rosewood under CITES.

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