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More than half Beche-de-mer applicants only after money, Ministry not interested

 

BY JARED KOLI

MORE than half of applicants for Beche-de-mer export licence are ‘purely after the chance to draw income’, it is revealed.

As the assessment committee screens applications, Director of Fisheries Edward Honiwala confirms this, saying more than half fall under this category and will not meet all requirements.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) has issued four criteria for applicants.

“We know a lot of them will not meet the four or any of the four criteria,” says the MFMR Permanent Secretary Dr Christian Ramofafia, during an exclusive interview with the two incumbents at the MFMR Headquarter yesterday.

The four criteria are:

  • Companies holding valid licence or permit to export Marine Product in 2017, and evidence of doing business in the fisheries sector in the last 3 years.
  • Companies with valid Inland Revenue Division TIN;
  • Companies with documentary evidence of export returns from Central Bank of Solomon Islands
  • Companies with good standing records of compliance with fisheries regulations in the last 3 years

Dr Christian could not reveal the exact number of applicants, but said there are many to be assessed by the assessment committee.

When asked on whether the granting of export licence will be done equally among locals and foreigners, Dr Christian said the ministry will treat all applications the same, and everyone has to fulfil the same criteria.

“If you continue with your business operations, either for locals or outsiders, but if you have licence here that means you are local company, whether the owner is an Asian or foreigner but do things in the country.

“There are many applications but unfortunately only four will be selected on the condition of the criteria set by MFMR.

“If there are many applicants meet the criteria set, we will have to look at them carefully, but according to cabinet we will have only four.

“I think we will look at commitment with the ministry and support on the development of the country, in terms of employment because all these things is based on the development of fisheries.”

The two reiterated that if someone applies just for the sake of a chance to draw money, then that application will be turned down.

Dr Christian said the ministry will put in place a strong guide to support villagers in terms of pricing because the lifting is aimed at supporting them.

“We will provide the price range to buyers and exporters, because the complexity of the trade, many of the buyers didn’t link with exporters,” he said.

The two highlighted that the ministry will put a price range for exporters.

“When we issue export permit we will also be giving them the price guide as condition for their licence. The licence will be issued with conditions, one of the conditions is not to buy undersized beche-de-mer.”

The criteria have been established to identify whether an applicant has been involved in the development of the fisheries sector.

“Others will argue to grant export licence to locals but many locals are backed by Foreigners. From our experience, licence fee is high and even locals do not afford, and we have seen that many locals are backed by outside people.

“In terms of number 1 criteria, we see this as they are genuine companies, and bank transaction is important and tax, locals may complain because some of these criteria some of the local companies cannot meet,” he said.

MFMR plans to carry out a beche-de-mer nationwide survey to determine the stock of beche-de-mer starting early next year.

“We plan to do a nationwide stock assessment of beche-de-mer before we open, but this opening is a decision which demand quick response, but we put in place how we can take information.

“We have funding available to do the exercise, in fact the plan for the nationwide survey has been reschedule for next year.

“But a team will be leaving next week to a place of interest to record information on the ground. This is important for us to take every data to assist in the trend of the beche-de-mer fisheries.

“We have a research team from the fisheries, and also officers from the province will join in, and other NGOs engaged with the fisheries,” Dr Christian said.

HOW TO DO IT…OFCF Beche-de-mer expert Dr Toru Komatsu, right, Director of Fisheries Mr Edward Honiwala, second left, Mr Kazuhiro Toyama of OFCF and Aquaculture officers James and Catherine at the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) beche-de-mer hatchery project. This year the project is supporting a community in Marau in east Guadalcanal and San Fly in Ngella. Director Honiwala strongly emphasized that such hatchery is what MFMR expects, and rejects farming method operated by Dr Reginald Aipia which is done in open waters and has lack of control over eggs and larvae.
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