World Wildlife Fund Launches Petition
World Wildlife Fund and local partners marked the start of Reef Week with a symbolic handing over of over two hundred and fifty thousand petitions to the office of the Prime Minister. All these petitions were gathered since April of last year through an online campaign that seeks to get the Belize Barrier Reef off the UNESCO’s “in danger list”. The proponents of this initiative believe that offering letters of support from people all across the world might put some steam under the people responsible for putting measures in place to get the barrier reef off the list. News Five’s Andrea Polanco was in Belmopan today and has the story.
Two hundred and sixty five thousand petitions were delivered to the Prime Minister’s Office this morning. The petitions were obtained through the World Wildlife Fund’s ongoing online campaign which started in April 2016 – the largest petition effort ever for Belize – where people locally and globally are calling on Government to put in place the measures needed to get the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System off the UNESCO’s “In danger” List – this means that if the measures are not put in place to get the barrier reef off this list it may be de-listed as a world “world heritage site” – so they took this to the PM’s front door.
Valentino Shal, Advocacy Lead, WWF Belize
“We need to bring this matter to the attention of the Prime Minister and so we have launched this international campaign and we have had a lot of support both in Belize and abroad. And so we want to ensure that the Prime Minister is getting these emails and messages that people here and around the worldare concerned about the status of the Barrier Reef System.”
“Is the Office of the Prime Minister expecting emails today?”
“Yes. We met with the C.E.O. of the Prime Minister to make her aware of this fact. We are actually very happy that she agreed to meet with us and we had a good discussion, so yes, they are expecting these two hundred and sixty five thousand emails today.”
“Has she indicated if there will be a response to WWF based on what they read in these emails?”
“Well, we are expecting that we will hear from the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister doesn’t have to respond to the WWF. The Prime Minister should speak to the Belizean people about his position on this matter.”
“What can we do as a country; as a people to help get this site off this list?”
“That is a good question and I think it is one of the easiest thing to do and it is to go to Panda.org/belize and send your petition to the Prime Minister today. The website is still open and will remain open. Our target is to reach one million petitions, we are at two hundred and sixty-five thousand and hopefully we can get to that number.”
In 1996 the Barrier Reef System was designated a World Heritage Site. But since 2009 it has been on theUNESCO’s “In danger list” because of mangrove cutting, developments, and the threat of offshore oil exploration – among other pressures.The WWF says that some grounds have been covered by G.O.B., but today they want to remind them that there is more to do to get off the “in danger list.”
Nadia Bood, Country Rep, WWF Belize
“We know that they are doing things to address the indictors, so we want to encourage them to press the accelerator to address the remaining things that need to be addressed. So far they have addressed the issue of having an integrated plan in place by developing and enacting the coastal zone management plan and they are currently working on a coastal zone management act to add some legal teeth to that plan; so far they are working on revising the national mangrove regulation and we believe that is supposed to be finished by the end of march, but the outstanding issues that need to be addressed pertains to land ownership within these systems. We know that within these world heritage site there are island and cayes. Some of those are publicly owned and others are privately owned. We know that those privately owned land some level of development will occur. And for the publicly owned we are asking for them to sell any more of those islands and cayes – the publicly owned ones because development can impact the reef system around them. Within the ask from UNESCO is that no oil exploration activity will compromise the health and the outstanding universal value of the world heritage sites.”
The WWF team did a symbolic walk over to the Prime Minister’s office to deliver this envelope with the over two hundred and fifty thousand petitions to the office of his C.E.O. Supporting the team today was OCEANA.
Janelle Chanona, VP, OCEANA Belize
“OCEANA is here to supporting the WWF as it delivers more than two hundred and fifty thousand letters of support from around the globe. It is really important to us because that only proves to be the exclamation point behind the tens of thousands of Belizeans that have been and continue to say now to threats like offshore oil to our marine resources. So, we are very proud…globally it is also important to millions of people around the world. We have been on the world site in danger list for more than six years and I think it just empathizes a sad reality that someone here in Belmopan has to be saying yes to offshore oil because if so many Belizeans have been saying no and we see evidence of hundreds of thousands of people around the world saying no and yet six years later we still don’t have a clear legislative position on offshore oil, sadly that just shows that in terms of our macro-economic strategy we are still not certain of where we are going; we are promoting tourism on one hand – and yet we are still toying with the idea of offshore oil that can destroy in terms of tourism and fishing – so that is the reality that we have to grapple with.”
Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.
WWF say that they had anticipated that all of UNESCO’s requests would have been addressed by December of last year, but this hasn’t happened which makes it impossible for the Barrier Reef to be taken off the list by July of this year when the World Heritage Site committee meets. So now, they are hoping that Belize will be able to get off the list by 2018.