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Dec 1, 2015

GOB Bans Offshore Drilling Near Reef System and World Heritage Sites

There is good news for anti-offshore drilling activists and organizations tonight. A release from Cabinet late this afternoon revealed that a policy has been approved which bans exploration in areas within the seven World Heritage Sites. That’s an area totally four hundred and forty-eight square miles, but there’s more. Cabinet has also agreed to ban offshore exploration within one kilometre on either side of the barrier reef system, another eight hundred and sixty-eight square miles. This evening we got a first response from Vice President of OCEANA Belize Janelle Chanona. OCEANA has led the charge against offshore exploration and drilling.

 

Janelle Chanona, Vice President, Oceana Belize

Janelle Chanona

“This announcement has to be seen as a major milestone for the people and country of Belize. At a time when world leaders are meeting in Paris to see how humanity is going to help itself survive a changing climate I think this is well timed. It has to be seen as a recognition of what the people of Belize has been asking for, for several years now. So it is definitely a terrific step, a giant leap forward on this issue. It has to be seen in the context that the government has clearly stated that Belize’s entire offshore area is under a moratorium. There is no licenses to be issued, we are in a moratorium period and now that we have these specific areas permanently banned we have to be seen as a significant step, a major milestone. We believe and I will tell you that I had to reach out to the PM to get a little bit of clarification because I didn’t understand the piece of the press release that says dealt with the other area that have not been permanently banned and he has indicated to me clearly that yes the moratorium is in place and that if ever in the future Belizeans want to allow offshore oil exploration that the ministry of petroleum is now in the process of revising existing structure to make sure that if that day ever comes that those structure that exist will be what he considers stringent and I think for where we have come from in the issue that yes this is a day to celebrate and I am only confident that the future as we go forward will only reveal more reasons as to why we are talking about a ban for all areas but definitely this announcement today should be seen as positive development and recognition of the job security, the food security, the cultural identity that we hold dare as Belizeans not only for ourselves but for the future generations. So it is a good day and we are grateful for it.”

 

Due to the lateness of the release, News Five was unable to get clarification from the Ministry of Petroleum on two marine protected areas not named in the list of those banned – the Turneffe Marine Reserve and the Port Honduras Marine Reserve.

 

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