The big news tonight is about the Chiquibul Symposium which was held in Belize City today, and we’ll get to that in a few. But first to the issue of rosewood, which burned furiously before settling to a slow simmer. Remember how exporters including the brother of the Deputy Prime Minister were allowed to sell their illegally harvested rosewood? Remember how government said they had struck a deal whereby there would be a fifty- fifty profit sharing agreement after the rosewood was sold? Well there is official verification tonight of just how much government received from the rosewood sale, and you’ll be blown away by that bombshell dropped by Minister of Forest Lisel Alamilla. Mike Rudon has the story. When GOB got flak over its decision to allow exporters to retrieve their illegally harvested rosewood and sell it, they stuck firmly to the story that it was the best option available to them. The deal struck with exporters guaranteed that GOB would be given half of the revenue from sales, or at least that’s what we were told. This afternoon the rosewood conversation with Minister of Forests Lisel Alamilla shed some light on that. Lisel Alamilla, Minister of Forests “A lot of it has been exported already, but remember the amnesty doesn’t require you to export it. The amnesty was just for us to go in and quantify it and regularize what was on the ground, stamp it and collect our royalties. What rosewood that we accounted for can be sold locally or people can sit on it and wait for the prices to go up and speculate that maybe a year from now, two years from now they can get a better price. But I think we have shipped a number of containers or at least given the permits for at least fifteen containers to be shipped or more. The total volume that we will allow for exportation because remember the last time I spoke to the press about rosewood we said we have to inform cites about how much material was preconvention harvested so that people can export it. We sent a figure of four hundred thousand board foot.” And then the conversation turned to the revenue from the exportation and sale of that rosewood. Lisel Alamilla
“Yes every time they get a permit they have to pay up first before. The royalties right now because they are called royalties within the forest act is about $300,000 the last time I checked which was a while back. It is called royalties. Yes.” Which then begged the question how would government know that that they are actually getting fifty percent? Lisel Alamilla “We had to negotiate a price based on what we heard people are making. We heard all sorts of figures of what a container fetches and it varies really. Everyone that came in had a different figure that they were telling us. And it came to a way where we just figured you know we had to get it out. Just pay us our share and then export your material and let move on with other business in the forest department. No I dint go into that level with it really. NO.” And then Minister Alamilla dropped the bombshell. LiselAlamilla “I am telling you I negotiated a price. $15,00 per container that contains 9000 board feet.” Minister Alamilla walked away, but the damage was done. Just to break it down – she confirmed that a container can hold nine thousand board feet of rosewood. We confirmed from official sources within the Ministry that the market value of rosewood exported for sale is twenty-four Belize dollars. Doing the math, that comes up to two hundred and sixteen thousand dollars per container of rosewood. So GOB got fifteen thousand per container valued at two hundred and sixteen thousand dollars. Not exactly fifty fifty, is it? But what it is a sweet deal for rosewood exporters, the biggest of which is the brother of Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega.