Thursday, 22 May 2008 12:46 PM

Logging Companies Accused of Robbing Solomon Islands

Logging companies in the country have been accused of robbing the government, the country, and resource owners of millions of dollars over the past twenty years by manipulating the country's determined price system for the export of round logs.

A logger, who chose to remain anonymous, says that he totally supports the recent upward review by the Government of the determined export price for round logs, describing it as "still very unfair on the country and the resource owners."

In response to the threat by the logging companies to withhold their log exports as a way to put pressure on the government to reconsider its decision, the logger said the Government must immediately investigate the administration of log exports by the Forestry Department up until now.

"If the Government carries out a surprise audit of the way the Forestry Department has been administering log exports, the Government would find massive corruption of the export system initiated by logging companies in the last twenty years," the logger said.

He stated that the corruption involved both corrupting the Forestry Department and deliberate manipulation of the system, enabling loggers to avoid paying for the right level of export duties.

The logger claims that logging companies have been entering lower export price for higher grade logs and bribing forestry officers with money and beer to accept their log export entries, depriving the country of millions of dollars.

"Anther method which loggers have been using was to designate some of their log consignments under the category of 'mixed species' which attracts a determined export price of only $68 US dollar per cubic meter, when in fact the consignment would consist mostly of high grade species which should attract duties as high as $87.50 to $98.50 per cubic mete in most cases," the logger said.

"The difference in dollar terms per cubic meter may only be from $25 to $30 US dollars per cubic meter, but when you consider the thousands of volumes of round logs logging companies export every year, this can amount to millions of dollars loss to the country and it people every year."

The logger calls on the Government to hold mass meetings with landowners and explain to them that what the Government is doing by revising export prices as it would show to them that it would be good for them and the country.

He further claims that all the logging companies in the country have been committing serious breaches of standard logging agreements with landowners designed by the Government and for which the Commissioner of Forests is the legal custodian.

###TIME###