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Oct 20, 2016

Seismic Testing Stopped Following Public Outcry

People’s power – that’s what moved government into action today. For days, environmentalists and other stakeholders have been on high alert. G.O.B. had given the green light for offshore seismic testing to a US company – TGS. They collect geo-scientific data that is sold off to oil and gas l exploration companies. They say this is a part of a regional initiative. The multibeam and seismic works are estimated to cost this company over three million U.S. dollars. But the work got underway somewhat quietly—without any consultations; without an E.I.A.  And seismic testing even started a day before schedule. But seismic testing has been suspended. G.O.B. made the decision earlier today after stakeholders from the tourism and environmental community said they were not happy about it and demanded that the testing be halted and for consultations to be held. News Five’s Andrea Polanco put together the action from San Pedro with video help from our colleagues at Ambergris Today. Here’s that report:

 

{Video footage courtesy Ambergris Today}

 

Tourism Stakeholder #1

“Why do the consultation now after the fact? Why? Because we got into an uproar and decided to attack?  And Oceana and everybody got together, like what the hell are you doing? We had the right to know it was going to happen way before it happened.”

 

Tourism Stakeholder #2

“Then answer the question. Why wasn’t it put out to the public? Answer it, instead of skate around it?

 

Tourism Stakeholder #3

“There is no way you could ah tell me that something this major does not carry an EIA. So I don’t want to hear that right now.”

 

Colin Young

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Tension was high today as Government officials met with tourism stakeholders in San Pedro. The purpose- it was to discuss the seismic testing to take place in offshore Belize. It’s a decision that Cabinet approved but the people do not agree with because they say there weren’t any consultations.  And from the start the group let the Government know just how they felt and they spared no one:

 

Dr. Colin Young, C.E.O., Ministry of Environment & Sustainable Development

“This is all about in the case of being completely transparent in terms of what we are presenting here. Transparent in the sense that…”

 

(Audience cheering)

 

Audience Member

“Transparent would be if you had done this before all this thing di happen.”

 

And so it started and continued for the duration of the meeting. Director of Department of Geology and Petroleum Andre Cho attempted to explain the project. But he was shut down by a stakeholder who said a diver had a bad experience because of the testing:

 

Andre Cho

Andre Cho, Director, Department of Geology

“The air gun is a piece of equipment that carries out the sound source and energy source. Air gun release pressurizes air and in this survey it’s the two thousand psi air guns.”

 

Stakeholder

“What you just said is not consistent with what this diver wrote about her dive in Turneffe yesterday. She said she was underwater on a dive and it sounded like thunder clapping. She said she thought it was thunder first because it looked like it was going to rain. But after that there was another one and another one and she realized that it wasn’t thunder and she realized it was the sound of seismic air gun blast. The calm underwater escaped had become interrupted by blasts of acoustic energy. The fishes around us seemed to sense the disturbance too and everything seemed on edge. I immediately ended the dive because I feared the source of the blast was near and could cause harm.”

 

And the questions kept coming.

 

Tourism Stakeholder #4

“One kilometer where did that come from?”

 

Andre Cho

“That was done from a cursory review of other policies in other countries. The buffer zone sometimes range from one to two kilometers. We chose to recommend one. That is still in the process of being finalized by mapping and.”

 

Scientist, Mar Alliance

“…related to the one kilometer buffer. How many of those countries have a barrier reef?

 

And what about the lack of an EIA? Well, the stakeholders also didn’t accept it.

 

Tourism Stakeholder #5

“Mr. Alegria, I watched you on TV, and what you said is false. It’s false. Many of the information being said out there does not correspond with facts. There is no way you could ah tell me that something this major does not carry an EIA. So I don’t want to hear that right now.”

 

But why do this seismic testing? Well, according to Cho, it is for data purposes only, at least for now. It is being paid for and collected by a US firm. But the people are skeptical:

 

Tourism Stakeholder #6

“I think it was 2012, I signed so my signature is in that that Oceana was gathering like over thirty thousand signatures that we don’t want any of this. So, why do you want to test if you do not want anything for the future?”

 

Andre Cho

“The purpose is to collect data in an area that we don’t have data. It is if the Government wants to take a policy decision and in the future banoffshore exploration, they have to do it on the basis of something. So, they will have to come to us.”

 

Tourism Stakeholder #7

“What is TGS’ interest then?”

 

Andre Cho

“TGS, I was explaining, like I the Government is noto paying for this survey from its budget. The way these surveys run, they are called multi-client surveys. I think Janelle told me she has researched it. How it works is, TGS pays for the survey and what they do is, in the future if the Government makes a policy decision to do offshore exploration and drill, they sell the data to interested companies who would apply to country for a license and they get back the cost from the survey. This survey cost about 1.8 million US and the multi-beam is about one point three. So, that is how they make their money in the future and the country gets data. So, it is a future cost of return.”

 

Tourism Stakeholder #8

“Why would they spend that money if they knew they weren’t gonna get it back? The government is saying they have no plans to drill, so why would this company partner with them if they knew they weren’t gonna get their money back.”

 

Andre Cho

“Because data; revenue; cost from surveys like this can be made back in the future. It would be years.   They do it all over the world.”

 

But stakeholders are not convinced. They believe this puts the tourism industry – their livelihoods- at risk. So, why didn’t Manuel Heredia speak up for them? Well, he said he did. Kind of. But he was still put on the spot:

 

Manuel Heredia Jr.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism

“I did caution that we supposed to have a lot more consultation than what was made. Definitely, I believe that there should be more consultation. No doubt about that.”

 

Tourism Stakeholder #8

“Everybody in this room is affected under your Ministry- the Ministry of Tourism. Be honest with everybody in this room right now. What would be your take to stand up for us, your community, your people and we are working in your industry? What is your take?”

 

Manuel Heredia Jr.

“I have said it before that whatever the outcome of this consultation is, I will forward that to the Prime Minister. If nobody want it then that is what I will tell him. (shouting) Anything that will be done that will affect the barrier reef or the livelihood of our stakeholders. I will be the first one to jump. That is I can guarantee you.”

 

The meeting ended early. The stakeholders were up in arms. And less than three hours later, Government had suspended the seismic testing activities pending consultations:

 

Manuel Heredia Jr.

“I relayed the information to Prime Minister and after hearing what you all have to say this morning at Sun Breeze. The Government of Belize has decided that they will suspend the seismic testing.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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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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2 Responses for “Seismic Testing Stopped Following Public Outcry”

  1. Stopthebs says:

    These government officials make me sick..they know the consequences of offshore drilling and the damage it could cause to the Belize Barrier reef and the ecosystem of Belizean Ocean ..they need to stop having the US manipulate them just for the sake of money and greed. This offshore drilling could have dire consequences for the Belizean ecosystems..the Belizean people need to let these corrupt ministers know this shit has to stop..protect our reef..protect our ecosystem and protect Belize from these greedy corrupt politicians and from the United States..power to the People..

  2. Jason says:

    It’s that little weasel wailing Dr. fault who tries to extort or get a deal from every large investor who comes into the country – be careful good doctor- there is evidence out there

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