The Solomon Islands Government is working on a new Forestry Bill in efforts to reduce the level of logging by 25 percent.Minister of Forestry, Job Duddley Tausinga said Ministry officials are currently drafting the bill, which is expected to be tabled in the July sitting of Parliament.
The government has acknowledged that the current unsustainable rate of logging in the country is a result of the inadequate forestry legislation governing logging activities.
Mr Tausinga said governments' can always put in place sound forestry policies but the existing Forestry Act always pose challenges.
"Currently we do not have the power to enforce any policy that would require us to cut the level of harvesting by 25 per cent," Mr Tausinga said.
Mr Tausinga also stated that the government is looking at ways to localize some of the benefits derived from logging, one of which is adding value locally.
Currently, under the government forestry policy, 20 percent of logs harvested must be milled locally into timber to add more value to timber products.
This policy requirement usually appears in logging agreements signed between companies and resources owners.
"It is very difficult to enforce that policy statement and as such there have been some companies that have not honoured the milling of the 20 per cent requirement."
Mr Tausinga said the Government wants to build the requirement into the proposed legislation to allow the ministry to monitor and enforce the 20 per cent milling requirement.
"Both policies needs to be legislated so that when the policy is implemented, at least there is teeth to bite,"
However, Mr Tausinga admitted that regulating the logging industry is at times an uphill battle given the fact that government does not own the resources.
"And so when resource owners are willing to give out their resources and if they follow the requirements under the existing law, the Ministry does not have the power to hinder whatever the people want in cutting down their forest.
"This is the dilemma we are really in but we hope when we have the legislation in place we would be able to look into that area and try to control things."
Mr Tausinga said at the moment the current legislation only provides for facilitation of logging applications for resource owners.
"As such it is a bit difficult for the government to stop the people whose lands and resources are allowed logging operations."
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