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Vanuatu Forest Industry Ltd not a Chinese Company: Embassy

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The Chinese Embassy in Port Vila has stressed that Vanuatu Forest Industry Limited (Ltd.), the company currently involved in logging activities on Santo, is a Vanuatu-based company and not a Chinese enterprise.

The Embassy said that the company’s owner, Mr. Li Hong Qi, has a Vanuatu passport, indicating his status as a naturalised citizen. Additionally, the company is duly registered with the Vanuatu Financial Services Commission (VFSC).

According to the Chinese Embassy, Mr. Li, a former New Zealand passport holder, was originally interested in investing in tourism upon arriving in Vanuatu. However, he eventually ventured into logging in partnership with a Chinese national, who has also become a Vanuatu citizen. The duo is currently based in Santo.

In an attempt to confirm Mr. Li’s citizenship status, Vanuatu Daily Post reached out to the Citizenship Office, but no definitive information was provided.

The Chinese Embassy said there are quite a few Chinese companies operating in Vanuatu and they comply with the country’s laws, citing examples like China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) Ltd.

Last week, five landowners of the government-acquired land surrounding the northern town of Luganville demanded payment for the felled trees. According to the landowners, there are more than 10,000 round logs at Palekula shipyard, and they have not received payment yet.

Vanuatu Forest Industry Ltd was supposed to process the logs for export to China to be used in paper production. However, the company lacks a factory in Santo and only operates one in China.

The Department of Forests (DoF) had previously acknowledged permitting the company to export round logs, despite it being prohibited by Vanuatu laws. Regrettably, the company failed to provide the required reports.

As a consequence, the DoF has suspended the company’s operations in Santo and is now addressing the management of the felled trees at Palekula, focusing on addressing the Palekula situation to safeguard the interests of landowners and the government.

In October of this year, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries, and Biosecurity (MALFFB) clarified that Vanuatu Forest Industry Ltd’s operations in Santo was driven by the extensive forest resource damage caused by Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold in 2020.

The company’s original objective was to harvest forest logs and enter the wood chips market, an industry yet to be established in Vanuatu.

The company holds a quota of approximately 20,000 tonnes of softwood, including trees unsuitable for timber production such as benuar, whitewood, melek tree, and burau.

Source: VDP

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