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May 28, 2015

G.O.B. Withdraws Appeal of Decision on Invalid Oil Concessions

On Wednesday, the Government of Belize withdrew its appeal against a legal ruling that oil concessions are null and void. The move is a surprising one, considering that Government had challenged an April 2013 decision issued by Justice Oswell Legall in favor of OCEANA, COLA and the Coalition in their lawsuit challenging six Production Sharing Agreements allowing offshore oil drilling. Now that G.O.B. has withdrawn that case, it’s major points against offshore oil drilling, so today we asked OCEANA Belize VP, Janelle Chanona, just what exactly this move signifies.

 

Janelle Chanona, VP, OCEANA Belize

“I think certainly that the decision of the Government of Belize is to withdraw its appeal, should be seen as a demonstration of the Government’s commitment to ensuring and safeguarding our marine resources. Since 2013 when that decision was handed down, I believe, the court helped to underscore the position of the Belizean populace that our marine resources are so very precious and integral to our economic life, our social life, in how we define ourselves as Belizeans, that every technicality, every procedure, every I must be dotted, every T must be crossed when it comes to these resources and that was the matter when Justice Legall made those declarations. It was on a technicality, but as evidenced, was a very important technicality that ended up in a null and void declaration for all those oil concessions. Advocates, we see this as an act of good faith but we’re still continuing to work for a policy position on this and we’ve been working very feverishly and getting language to the Government to considering terms of its drafting of a position of offshore oil and we hope to get that to the Prime Minister as soon as possible.”

 

Janelle Chanona

Andrea Polanco

“Would you say this is a win for OCEANA?”

 

Janelle Chanona

“You know, I think, Andrea, anything that has to do with our offshore areas and we are a marine conservation organization has to be seen as a victory for Belize. This is, the importance of our resources cannot be understated in any way, shape or form. And anything that works towards safeguarding those resources is really tantamount to Belizeans of today and future generations.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Do you think that decision was made, perhaps, based on the amount of work that OCEANA has been doing in terms of awareness and general conversations or the conversations with partners, and the pressure of the environmental community?”

 

Janelle Chanona

“Well, I hope you would be able to say that more than me, you know, fisherman nuh wah say ih fish stink. But I think, Andrea, in all seriousness the Belizean people have carried this issue from the very beginning and from the get go they have been saying that if we don’t take care of this issue it will not be able to provide for us, it is a bread and butter issue. But with Belizean people being informed, participants, engaged is exactly what we need to do to develop as a country and in a sustainable manner.”

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