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Minister Halts Chinese Illegal Timber Exploitation 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr — Forestry and Wildlife Minister, Philip Ngolle Ngwese, has asked Chinese working at the Kribi deep seaport to halt the illegal timber exploitation they are carrying out in the town.

The Minister, on an impromptu visit in the area, caught the Chinese pants down in their illegal business. Meanwhile, the unfolding deep seaport project at Kribi, South Region, has been termed a major game-changer for the country’s industrialisation ambitions. 

Nonetheless, as the venture’s June 2014 windup deadline draws nigh, fingers of accusation, pinpointing assorted infringements have continued rising in the direction of the contractors, the China Harbor and Engineering Corporation. Hard-to-verify denunciations indicate the Chinese have been illegally exporting timber from forests being chopped down since December 2010 to clear space for the project spread over 26,000 hectares.   

The ceaseless grumbles by locals inspired a field trip to the area last week by the Forestry Minister, who caught the Chinese in their act. Just off the 287-billion-FCFA port site, the Minister spotted an unauthorised export-ready timber depot. Reminding officials of the China Harbor and Engineering Corporation that protocols governing the project do not accord them any forestry exploitation prerogatives, he asked them to instantly halt the activity, ordering a seizure of all the timber.

“It’s hard to say for how long they have been engaged in the illegal activity,” explained Francois Mangwat, one of the few Cameroonians hired by the Chinese at the project site, some 35 km south of the seaside resort town, “but it’s not a recent activity though and they always said they had full rights to all the timber felled here and would do what they cared fit with the stocks.”

However, the country’s forestry laws, according to government officials, stipulate that the ministry in charge organises tree-felling in the case of large-scale projects to ensure revenue recuperation for state coffers. It remained unclear after Minister Ngolle’s impromptu outing if the government will be demanding reimbursements from the Chinese for the timber already illicitly exported from the site.

First published in The Post print edition no 01463

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