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Aug 7, 2015

Territorial Volunteers Full Steam Ahead to Sarstoon Island

Since an armed standoff between the Belize National Coast Guard and the Guatemalan navy at the end of May, the Sarstoon Island has virtually been declared off-limits to civilians.  In fact, the area is only traversed once a week by B.D.F. personnel on routine patrol of the region.  So, when the Northern Territorial Volunteers, an offshoot of the Belize Territorial Volunteers, announced an upcoming trip to visit the island, eyebrows were immediately raised.  While there are serious concerns about the prudence of that decision, the team of nationalists is holding firm to its schedule to depart from Orange Walk Town in the wee early hours of August sixteenth.  The journey, however, will be at their own risk, as government will not be lending any support to the volunteers since the island is presently the subject of a territorial dispute.  Viewers will recall that the group had also been detained previously by the Guatemalan navy. This afternoon, News Five spoke by phone with Phillip De la Fuente, a member of NTV.


Phillip De la Fuente

On the Phone: Phillip De la Fuente, Member, Northern Territorial Volunteers

“We have been sitting about organizing this trip for the past month and a half, two months and we’re organizing an expedition.  We’ll be taking people to the Sarstoon Island.  We’ll be leaving from the barracks here in Orange Walk at approximately 12:30 in the morning, we’re going to PG by bus and from PG we will take a break, have breakfast, stretch our legs and then we go the last stretch of the leg to Barranco.  We will be going to Barranco by bus and from Barranco we will be shuttling our people to the Sarstoon Island. That expedition will be for the sixteenth of August which is Sunday.”


Isani Cayetano

“Now Mr. De la Fuente what prompted the need for you guys to visit the island?”


On the Phone: Phillip De la Fuente

“Well we have wah lotta people weh noh gaan da Barranco yet, including myself, you know, and then our aim, our group’s aim is to act somewhat as tour guides to go out to the different parts of our borders, educating people about our borders and showing them that we have a beautiful country and we need to protect what is ours.  Our main goal is asking the government to protect our country, our border and do it in a nice way, you don’t have to be aggressively defending it, but defend it.”


Isani Cayetano

“Now I understand that a letter has been written to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with regard to this upcoming mission to Sarstoon Island.  Can you share some information with us regarding that?”


On the Phone: Phillip De la Fuente

“I know that a letter was sent but I’m not familiar with the content of the letter.  But yeah, we have sent the letter to all the pertinent authorities, the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  They all know that we have this trip planned and we would want to expect that they will be along with us.”


Isani Cayetano

“The position, from my understanding, is that this is an ill-advised decision taken by the Northern Territorial Volunteers in light of the fact that there is controversy concerning ownership of Sarstoon Island.  You’re aware of this are you?”


On the Phone: Phillip De la Fuente

“Yes.  As far as I know, Belize does not have any issue with Guatemala.  Guatemala is claiming part or all of Belize.  So Belize does not have any problem with Guatemala.  We know for a fact that there is a claim by Guatemala on Belize but that claim is along the western border.  The border between Guatemala and Belize along the western boundary.  As far as we know, we do not have a problem.  Een at the last symposium or meeting that the Honorable Sedi Elrington and the Foreign Minister of Guatemala had in Belize City they clearly stated that Belize and Guatemala are the best of friends.  We have no problem with each other.  That is their word at that meeting.”


Isani Cayetano

“Nonetheless Mr. De la Fuente, the last expedition that you guys embarked upon in the south resulted in you being detained, or the group of you being detained in Livingston overnight.  Do you guys fear that a similar incident can reoccur?”


On the Phone: Phillip De la Fuente

“Yes we are, that’s why we are ensuring that we will not go up the Sarstoon River because yes we have told everybody that we made an innocent blunder into Guatemalan waters.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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