From left: GFC’s Commissioner James Singh, Chairperson of the board Jocelyn Dow  and David Singh,  Vice President, Conservation International at the press conference. (Department of Public Information photo)

Baishanlin still owes the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) some $80 million, according to Commissioner of Forests James Singh, who also says that claims about the company illegally logging at one of the concessions it previously owned are false.

Fielding questions yesterday at a GFC press conference, Singh confirmed that the Chinese company still owes the Commission some $80 million and discussions have started with the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), which is currently in possession of a number of assets from Baishanlin on reaching an agreement which would see the GFC being able to sell some of the seized assets to recover the money owed.

Singh also emphasised that all of the concessions that were given to Baishanlin have been revoked and are now in the GFC’s possession.

A recent Kaieteur News report stated that the company was caught illegally logging somewhere along the Berbice River, but Singh said while the GFC is currently investigating, he could confirm that Baishanlin is not behind the logging.

“We will be able to answer the other questions more fully when the investigation is completed. As far as the GFC is aware, Baishanlin is not engaged in any forestry act as it is. The report that was carried yesterday [Sunday] basically made reference to some illegal harvesting happening in the Waico area – a concession that previously fell under the Baishanlin umbrella and yes we have been investigating some illegal logging that is happening there but it is definitely not associated with Baishanlin,” Singh said.

He noted that since the area was once under the stewardship of Baishanlin, people quickly associate the illegal logging with the company. In terms of who might be behind the activity, Singh noted that while the GFC is unable to specifically state who might be behind the act at the moment, it has narrowed it down to “nearby associations or other stakeholders.”

Singh gave an assurance that they would find who the culprits are by next month since they have a log tagging system that they will be able to use to clearly identify the cut logs.

“We would encourage persons with information about illegal logging to engage the Commission,” he said.

In terms of the vehicles that might have been used to transport the illegally cut logs, Chairperson of the GFC Board Jocelyn Dow said that they might have been those previously owned by the Chinese company.

“…You sold your house or had your house revoked and it is still your house by name but not necessarily accurate. These concessions have been taken back, so it’s our concessions that is being encroached. We will have all the information but it’s not wise for us to bring it out at this stage. We are pursuing it and we take the matter of illegal logging very seriously,” Dow said.

In terms of monitoring the forest to prevent such incidents, the Commissioner stated that currently they have 110 forest rangers spread across the country, which is adequate to fulfill the GFC’s mandate.

“If we don’t have the capacity, what we usually do is recruit students from the Guyana School of Agriculture or University of Guyana that are coming out with a BSc or certificate and train them for three months and attach them to different stations. As it is right now, we have the full capacity to do the monitoring,” he said.

However, Singh indicated that when concessions are revoked, there is increased monitoring, including the presence of more officers to prevent persons from illegal logging, since it can take some four to five days to remove 500 logs.

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