Representative of affected forest communities communities are expect to today protest against the government habitual refused to clear its debt.
According to the release, the government owed forest affected communities 5.5 million United States dollars collected over the past years as land rental fees paid by concessions.
The sit-in protest, which is been led by the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committee (NUCFDC) seeks to pressurized government in settling its US$ 5.5 million debt owed forest communities.
“We are calling on the Ministry of Finance to ensure that communities affected by logging operations in the country get their just benefits, especially the 30% shares of land rental fees accrued from logging companies,” the group said in a the release said.
“The government’s failure to pay communities their share of land rental fees is a violation of the National Forestry Reform Law of 2006. The law mandates the government to transfer 30 percent of land rental fees logging companies pay to communities for development purposes,” the release said.
The money, according to the group was collected as land rental fees by the government on behalf of the forest, which had not been paid for years.
The National Forest Reform Law of Liberia 2006 mandate the government through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in collaboration with the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance to collect land rental fees from the logging companies and transfer 30% of the proceed to forest communities..
NUCFDC represents the interest of 23 Community Forestry Development Committees (CFDCs) within seven forest management contract areas in nine counties,and nine timber sale contract areas.
The group noted that since the inception of the law, the government has paid only US$2.6 million and still owes communities over US$5.5 million from the US$27.7 million collected from loggers ever since.
“The outstanding amount also undermines Liberia’s Volunteer Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union, which calls for fair sharing of timber resources. It also contravenes the community pillar of the country’s forestry reform, which ended decades in which rural areas did not benefit from forest resources and had no say in forest governance,” the release said.
The release further said that the planned protest today would make it the third year in a row that the union has taken action for the payment. In the last two years, the Union has partitioned the Legislature, but to no avail.
The union said in the release it had contacted the Ministry of Finance and the Forestry Development Authority but got no redress.
“It is still regrettable that the government is yet to do anything in addressing this issue of communities receiving their share of land rental fees as required by law,” the union said.
Meanwhile, NUCFDC is calling on the government to apportions at least US$2 million into the next national budget which hearing is ongoing at the Legislature.