FDA Managing Director Differs with Lawmakers

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Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Managing Director, Harrison S. Karnwea Sr., has differed with some lawmakers that the forestry sector is not impacting local communities, stressing that “the Lawmakers are basing their argument on misinformation.”

Mr. Karnwea’s reaction followed recent comments by Senate Pro Temp Armah Z. Jallah during a meeting with a US delegation that the forestry sector agreement needs to be reviewed because community dwellers were not benefiting, citing road construction as something companies should do, but are not doing.

Other Representatives have also weighed in that logging companies are operating in communities that are not benefiting from their activities in the southeast of the country.

Reacting to the issue, Mr. Karnwea, who has been summoned by the House of Representatives, said, “The Lawmakers’ comments are based on misinformation or lack of information and such information can be attained through telephone calls inviting us to meet them and explain what is unfolding in the sector. I am willing to go there to give them the information they need, but they should not speculate in the media. I disagree with them on that.”

He spoke during a review of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between the European Union (EU) and Liberia.

Though he has read from newspapers that the House has invited him, Karnwea said he has not received any invitation from the House to make clarifications on the forestry sector.

In his response to Pro Temp Jallah’s comment about constructing roads in communities, Mr. Karnwea said, “No logging company can make a road free-of-charge. Logging companies are obliged to make roads for their own works, and if they should do, government will ask them to do it for a specific fee, but not free.”

He said the road between Zwedru and Pleebo was done by a logging company on a contractual basis, noting, “Anybody who says logging companies make roads free-of-charge, that person may be daydreaming.”

According to Mr. Karnwea, in 2015, US$1 million was transferred to forest dwelling communities, apart from other social benefits that they were receiving from logging companies.

He explained that under the Forestry Law of 2006, 30 percent of the Liberian forest is set aside as protected forest and parks to mitigate global warming and climate change.

“We are carrying on commercial logging activities, but done sustainably, and we observe the three Cs that have to do with conservation, commercial and community; and communities that have forests are benefiting from their resources,” he added.

The VPA was negotiated between 2009 and 2011. It is aimed at ensuring that Liberia exports only legal timber products bearing the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) license to the EU. The European Union ratified the VPA in 2012 and Liberia in 2013.

Following the VPA review meeting with key stakeholders including the Forestry Development Board, the Head of European Union Delegation to Liberia, Ambassador Tiina Intelmann said, “EU partnership with Liberia’s forest management is to manage the forest in a sustainable way so that in the business, tax will come to benefit the people of Liberia in their development drive.”

She said the meeting is held every six months to review the forestry law, reiterating that the EU wants to buy products from Liberia’s forest, but wants to do it transparently so that there will be tax revenue from it to the government.

Ambassador Intelmann disclosed that through the agreement, Liberia in 2015 received US$8 million in tax from the forestry sector.

For her part, the chairperson of the FDA Board of Directors, Sister Mary Laurene Browne, expressed gratitude to the EU for the partnership, “because it brings benefit and sustainability of the Liberian forest.”

She added that the “Forest is important because Liberia will benefit without destroying (it) as some countries have done and are learning from their mistakes. We do not want to learn from our mistakes.”

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