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Oct 31, 2016

Ban on Offshore Drilling for Protected Marine Sites; Minister Still Supportive of Petro-Exploration

Last Tuesday, cabinet officially suspended seismic testing that was being conducted offshore by an international company, TGS. Reeling from scandal to scandal and following a remarkable manifestation of people’s power, government bowed to pressure from environmentalists as well as residents on San Pedro and Caye Caulker who were vocal about the potential risks to the barrier reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The overriding concern was that G.O.B. was contemplating offshore drilling again and the testing would have provided the information needed for potential oil exploration. For now, the conservationists have won that battle and according to Minister Manuel Heredia, government will move to ban offshore drilling from world heritage sites and protected areas. 

 

Manuel Heredia Jr.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism

“I personally believe that we supposed to know what we have in our country—what is there underneath, what we have above and all around. But again, I don’t believe in confrontation; I believe in listening to the people even though we have to be careful otherwise we will not be able to govern this country; it will probably be the N.G.O.s that will govern this country. And I believe as lawmakers we are supposed to have also dialogue and consultation and be able to do a part on our own also. I do believe that in this particular one, we lacked consultation and that the timing between the knowledge of cabinet knowing about this and going to the people was not appropriate. Something sensitive like that, even if it is good, it will have controversy. I believe that we took the right measure and decided to let it go. We agreed that probably we will still maintain the moratorium on offshore drilling. If that is to be lifted, there has to be consultation with N.G.O.s and with the majority of Belizean people as to what they feel about that. On the other side, I challenge OCEANA…we cannot just say we don’t want this, we don’t want the other. I gave them an example in Ecuador. In Ecuador, the government feels that it had five billion dollars worth of petroleum underneath their reserves and they were determined to exploit it because there are hundreds and thousands of people that need jobs. Tourism on its own cannot sustain this country. Banana citrus, sugar cane are already on the decline—the prices are getting worse. So there has to be some other type of development. The way a government survives is either by additional investment coming in or taxation to the people.”

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