Ara Macao is Back – But in What Form?
In what can only be described as perverse fate, a week that featured news of an implosion of a mega-tourism development project, namely Puerto Azul, ends with news of a possible comeback for another, though in a different form. We are speaking of the Scarlet Macaw Hotel, Marina and golf course development along the Placencia Peninsula, near Seine Bight and Riversdale. As Placencia gets used to the influx of cruise visitors from another major tourism development – Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Harvest Caye off the coast, the developers behind Ara Macao, as it is popularly known, may be seeking to try again on a smaller scale. When it was first introduced in 2006, it garnered great support from the then government. The National Environmental Appraisal Committee had even approved its plans subject to a few conditions. But then it simply disappeared off the radar, as lead developer Paul Goguen engaged in back-and-forth litigation with the citizen’s group Placencia Citizens for Sustainable Development in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal. So is Ara Macao back, and in what form? That’s what we asked leading member of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Investment, Senator Godwin Hulse, on Thursday.
Godwin Hulse, Member, Cabinet Sub-Committee on Investment
“There were five pieces to that project. The latest one was to try to create almost what we could call almost an industrial zone; it’s a little different from that. And it would be to bring in – you know there’s an airstrip there, and there’s some huge unfinished buildings – I understand there was a new group that wanted to finish those, and tried to get permission; and if I can remember well, one would be to create a medical institution, a high-tech institution to do things like what Intel does in Costa Rica and that sort of thing; that was the last I heard of them.”
“But you would agree that they are embarking a new round of consultations, to spearhead some aspect of the project on Placencia?”
“I don’t know that they are embarking on that – they might be jumping the gun, because as I said, whether you do E.I.A.’s, consultation or not, that is only one-fifth of the criteria and the requirement. And I can tell you as a fact: when it came back on the table, the Investment Committee was not supportive of the concept that you would get – these people were looking for fifty years, exclusive; nobody will give anybody that kind of exclusive. To do what? That would mean you are locking out Belizeans from doing some of the same things they want to do. So that in itself made it a non-starter as well.”
“It came back on the table when?”
“About a year ago, I think.”
The developers are said to be planning a community meeting in Seine Bight next week.