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Oct 11, 2011

Illegal shipment of rosewood intercepted by forest department

In June, 2010 the Supreme Court delivered a breakthrough decision affirming the ancestral rights of thirty-eight Mayan villages in the south. That decision allows the Maya communities to log and bars the Forestry Department from intervening until the wood leaves the communal area. Containers of the wood are being shipped primarily to China; each container fetches about two hundred thousand dollars. The Maya Leaders Alliance is against what they consider the rape of the Toledo forests. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Rosewood is a highly expensive wood that is sought after internationally to build high-end furniture. And in the south where natural resources are plenty and people are poor, Rosewood forests are being assaulted for a few dollars. On Saturday, the Forest Department unloaded an illegal shipment of Rosewood Zericote from the Port.

Marcelo Windsor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer

Marcelo Windsor

“In this case, the customs department called us in—that they had some four containers that did not have any forestry certification; meaning that there is no inspection that was carried out and they wanted us to confirm whether the applications; that is the supply control forms were the same as what was in the containers. We proceeded on Friday and we found that contrary to what the forms did have, we actually found that we had approved the exportation of black poison wood and these were actually rosewood and zericote. So the forest department proceeded to confiscate the material. We’re still awaiting for the exporter to come into the office and for us to proceed with the illegalities of this later on.”

The form essentially says that the exporter Guoming Lee of Northern Lumber Company at number one Victoria Avenue in Orange Walk was exporting Black Poison wood to Shenzen City in Guangdong China.

Jose Sanchez

“If Mister Lee doesn’t make an appearance, what happens then? Do you charge him? What happens?”

Marcelo Windsor

“Well firstly, the material is the property of forest department. We’ve actually confiscated that. Mister Lee will have to come into the office and we will decide what charges we will be bringing against him.”

Jose Sanchez

“Does this affect his license or his operation as an exporter of wood?”

Marcelo Windsor

“Definitely I would say yes. In regards to the export of rosewood and zericote, as I said earlier, the forest department is trying to regulate the process. With this now, we have to be more vigilant with regards to those shipments.”

Wilbur Sabido

Chief Forest Officer Wilbur Sabido says the department is trying to regulate the extraction.

Wilbur Sabido, Chief Forest Officer

“What we request as a Forest Department is that there be adherence to the Forest Act which is the act that governs the actual extraction of timber—whether it be from private or public lands—that there be a license requested and issued by the forest department which legitimizes basically the logging operation. And also in terms of the transportation of the material once it is extracted through that legitimate license; that anytime material is being transported through public roads that a waybill accompany that particular material. In the sense that the waybill will essentially include what species is on the vehicle that’s transporting the material and that there be an estimate of the volume and as well who it is being bought from and who it’s being delivered to.  In this particular instance, it didn’t fulfill the basic requirement of certification—that the material comes from a legitimate source confirmed by the forest department through a license nor did it have the forest department stamp that it requires.”

Jose Sanchez

“Mister Sabido, but if this exporter did all the proper paperwork, this rosewood would have been exported?”

Wilbur Sabido

“If the gentleman or the exporter had provided all the legitimate licenses or documents, then certainly it would have shown that in this particular instance the rosewood would have been cut or extracted through a process that had been sanctioned through the forest department.”

Jose Sanchez

“What would an exporter have to gain by lying? By just changing the name of the wood; what would they have to gain?”

Wilbur Sabido

“Well first of all in terms of the value that was reported to the supplies control board or directorate of foreign trade, there would need to place an estimated value of that particular material that is in that container. Meaning that int he case of rosewood, probably the value would have been higher and the tax associated with that value would be higher. Now it begs the question: Why conduct illegal activities versus legitimizing your activity and probably receiving a green light for anything that you want to export? Certainly it has to do with the return on investment that legitimate businesses usually get which is one hundred percent.”

Tree cutters from at least seven Mayan Communities extract Rosewood and are paid as little as three dollars and seventy five cents for a wood that is extremely valuable.

Marcelo Windsor

“This is roughly about twelve or twelve by eight which gives you something about one hundred or more feet and if you sell that at local market value, it’s something like three hundred and forty-five, three hundred and fifty dollars. So it does have a significant value here. And at the export market, you can actually get about six to seven times more what you actually pay locally.”

Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

Cutters hail from the villages of: Crique Sarco, Midway, Sunday Wood, San Benito Poite, Corazon, Otoxa and Laguna.

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5 Responses for “Illegal shipment of rosewood intercepted by forest department”

  1. julio says:

    Why Belize is exporting this valuable and expensive wood to China?The GOB need to help the local Belizean to learn how to cure the wood and make furniture and then export the furniture to China so that the poor people can benefit from this valuable Rosewood and Zericote,but like how they say big fish eat small fish.

  2. Rod says:

    Put this Chinese in jail he should be put in jail for for at lease 5 years for illegal logging and he should be fined 15000:00 dollars make an example of this guy does anyone in this udp gov. Have any kind of brains co me on do your jobs for a change .

  3. somiah says:

    never cease to amaze me in how Belizeans ( as a country ) is being exploited…

  4. fromafar says:

    nothing is going to happen, he’s paying off the right people, forget this story, it didnt happen…

  5. John says:

    Is our country run by chinese? De americans get our best lands now de chinese get wood. What does our people get apart.frombork staying poor. Id guess Vega getting rich as ralph.

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