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Jan 10, 2013

Illegal rosewood harvested down south

A moratorium on the extraction of rosewood is still in place in the south and an assessment has reportedly not yet been completed, but the harvesting of the precious wood continues unabated in the Toledo District. On Wednesday night, a delivery truck preparing to load a large number of rosewood pieces was detected by the head of the Toledo Alcaldes Association, Alfonso Cal, thirty miles outside of Punta Gorda. The Police and Forestry Departments were notified close to midnight of the illegal cargo. It has stirred trouble in the surrounding communities of Golden Stream and Deep River. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The harvest and extraction of rosewood since the enactment of a moratorium by the Forestry Department in March 2012 is an illegal practice; nonetheless, dealers in the south are still very much involved in the unlawful trade.  This stationary tractor, parked across a feeder road near the outskirts of Deep River, is obstructing the passage of a delivery truck, presumably the vessel in which over seven hundred pieces of the prized lumber would have been transported overnight.

 

Charles Rivas

Charles Rivas, Forest Ranger, Machaca Forest Station

“Last night, while socializing with my friends and my colleagues from Machaca Forest Station in Punta Gorda, I received a call from Officer Baizar from Independence Forest Station informing me about a container loading rosewood at Deep River. This information he had received from the Chief Forest Officer to assist with the apprehension if there is any loading going on. I told him I will address the situation immediately and I proceed to Sgt. Smith from the Punta Gorda Police station and proceeded to Deep River. Upon arriving at Deep River, there was already Punta Gorda’s TV media House there along with personnel from Golden Stream. I try to leave my vehicle but they did not give me any time to get out of my vehicle; they just aggressed me at the side of my vehicle. I asked them to please leave so that I can deal with this situation that I have been informed of. And I proceeded on to do so.”

 

And when he did, forest ranger Charles Rivas came across a quantity of rosewood, felled and prepared in different lengths.

 

Charles Rivas

“We found seven hundred and sixty-five round and short fledges. Let me put it in different categories. We have two hundred and twelve fledges—that’s the square planks—and if I should subtract that from, it would be five hundred and fifty-three round posts mixed up with another few pieces of other planks that they didn’t finish cut. So in total it would be something like seven hundred and sixty-five total with everything added all together. Likewise like an amount of sixty-nine barrels. Barrels are the bump from the tree that they cut also that is being sold. I don’t know how or what they use it for. But that’s what was found there.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Mister Rivas, who are the principals of these concessions in Deep River area?”

 

Charles Rivas

“The principal person for these concessions is Mister Hilmar Alamilla.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Is what they are doing currently illegal given the fact that there was a moratorium issued on rosewood extraction and harvesting a year or so ago.”

 

Charles Rivas

“Yes what they have been doing is illegal. None of these things have been stamped. We have pictures prior to our reports that these people have been cutting rosewood and we haven’t been able to find any rosewood. I can’t say that the fledges there right now presently is being cut within that area. I cannot vouch on that; I don’t know exactly where they get it from. The other round logs that are out there is within the area of probably Medina Bank, Golden Stream, Tambran and within that concession.”

 

According to Rivas, no one has been granted permission to extract rosewood since the ban on its harvesting has not been lifted.  Alamilla, he says, is in violation of that order.  Chief Forest Officer Wilbur Sabido will have the final say as to the outcome of this infraction.

 

Charles Rivas

“After our report, the Chief Forest Officer will decide as to how we will deal with it—whether it will be removed from there and placed in a safe place. Because we had an incident where we had confiscated some rosewood and it was stolen from us. So we will be moving it if the chief gives us the green light to remove those things along with the assistance of from I don’t know where because our office cannot pay for any transportation or workmen to load those things.”

 

There have also been allegations that a pair of Chinese nationals had a hand in the illicit activity.

 

Charles Rivas

“The two Chinese nationals presently that was out there last night and this morning, they are working under Mister Hilmar Alamilla concessions. They are the principals for Mister Alamilla. As to relationship or whatever, I cannot say—what terms they are working under, I cannot vouch on that. I don’t know.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Just to reiterate, you are saying that the Chief Forest Officer will be the one to make a decision whether either charges will be brought against Mister Alamilla’s company or what will become of the pieces of rosewood that are currently on the site?”

 

Charles Rivas

“Yes we will be monitoring that until he gives us the go ahead as to what to do because definitely we will need to get vehicles and workmen to remove those things and I cannot pay from here. This will have to be from Belmopan, everything.”

 

News Five tried contacting Minister of Forestry Lisel Alamilla earlier today to get an official response from her but we were made to understand that she was in a meeting in Belmopan. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

 

Despite Rivas’ assertion, there is an unconfirmed report that a license has been issued to another group that exports rosewood. 

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1 Response for “Illegal rosewood harvested down south”

  1. Storm says:

    1. Hon. Lisel Alamilla must revoke Hilmar Alamilla’s rosewood license immediately. If she can’t or won’t do that, she should resign herself.

    2. We need a law that places serious punishment on illegal logging. I like the idea of a MANDATORY sentence of one year in prison for every 100 board feet you cut illegally. Or 10 years for every tree. In this case, let’s do the math — 69 tress = 690 years in prison for Hilmar and the Chinese.

    3. Forfeiture of all equipment involved, such as the trucks, containers, saws, etc., etc., etc.

    Those steps would be a reasonable beginning. If we think the forests must be protected, let’s be serious about protecting them. In Africa, elephant and rhino poachers are shot — I could live with that here for lumber poachers.

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