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Sep 5, 2017

Presenting on the Strengthening of Belize’s Oil Spill Response Capabilities

This morning, stakeholders from the public and private sectors, as well as members of the environmental community, gathered at the Radisson to present on the strengthening of Belize’s oil spill response capabilities.  On hand for the meeting were officials from the Department of the Environment, Oceana in Belize and other invited guests.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Since striking black gold over a decade ago and extracting crude in commercial quantities shortly thereafter, Belize has been fortunate to have avoided an oil spill thus far.  That does not mean, however, that the threat is non-existent.  In fact, while the pumping of petroleum from wells in Spanish Lookout has seen a significant reduction, the risk of an oil slick along the highways or spillage at sea is very real.

 

Percival Cho

Dr. Percival Cho, C.E.O., Ministry of Environment

“The oil spill contingency plan, as we call it, is a plan that is designed to afford stakeholders in this country, pretty much anybody who’s interested in any disaster relating to petroleum products, to have a coordinated response to dealing with an emergency such as a spill of an oil tanker, for example, a truck on the highway spilling fuel or even used oil being transported and there’s a spill.  So the idea being that this plan will dictate, provide recommendations for the type of equipment that should be used in certain events, certain types of events and certain amounts of spills.”

 

Planning, as well as a concerted effort among agencies, is important to ensuring proper disaster risk management and protection of the country’s terrestrial, aquatic and marine environment.

 

Elliott Taylor

Dr. Elliott Taylor, Consultant, Polaris Applied Sciences

“One of the important things is, you know, each country really needs to be and should have in place a mechanism to respond to the emergency, that potential environmental emergency.  So irrespective of whether they are a country that produces or not, everybody uses oil and so you may just be importing oil.  For many years, Belize just imported oil, but that still meant that there was a potential risk.  We have tanker trucks on the roads.  We do have some production that’s happening now on shore in Belize and there’s many other potential sources.  There are ships that are going by and there are cruise ships that call on Belize every time and so there’s a lot of other potential sources for spills.”

 

According to Dr. Percival Cho, Chief Executive Officer at the Ministry of Environment, the Belize National Oil Spill Contingency Plan has been revised twice since it was established in the mid-nineties.

 

Dr. Percival Cho

“The plan has been in place since 1995 when the Department of the Environment was in its early years.  It was revised in certain areas of it in 2003 and then updated again in 2008.  This plan has been in place for quite some time, but given the fact that we now have an oil industry in this country and of course we are seeing increased importation of petroleum products, there is a need to update this plan and make it compliant with international standards.”

 

The revision of the plan contributes to the Department of Environment’s obligation to the protection of Belize’s environment, pollution control and disaster management response.

 

Dr. Elliott Taylor

“The national contingency plan is something that looks at those potential sources, which ones are most probable, identifies those and then has a very clear mechanism in place on how you would tackle that situation.  And the importance of having the stakeholders, whether that’s government, N.G.O.s, industry, tourism, foreign affairs.  All these different stakeholders are potential contributors to making sure that whatever happens in terms of response is done effectively and addresses everybody’s concerns and priorities.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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