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Dec 15, 2017

B.A.A. waits for funding for Caye Caulker airstrip; S.S.B. skeptical

The Caye Caulker Airstrip project, an initiative that was, to an extent, prompted by Tropic and Maya Island Air’s decision to suspend flights to the island because of a faulty runway, is in limbo tonight.  That’s because the Belize Airports Authority was banking on a loan facility from the Social Security Board to conduct much needed repairs on the aerodrome.  That loan application has pretty much fallen through, as SSB’s Board of Directors rejected a request for three and a half million dollars to undertake the project.  While it may not be completely off the table, there are two strict conditions that BAA must meet in order to be granted approval.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano has that story.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Since local carriers suspended flights to Caye Caulker at the beginning of October, much has been said about the proposed aerodrome to be constructed on the island.  In fact, the People’s United Party has been rather vocal in suggesting that the project may very well be just another hustle for government cronies.  Criticism notwithstanding, the Belize Airports Authority is tonight in a pickle since the Social Security Board, its primary funding agency, has essentially turned down a loan application for three and a half million dollars.  The fate of the initiative now hangs in the balance.


Nicholas Ruiz, General Manager, Belize Airports Authority

Nicholas Ruiz

“Currently the discussions with SSB are still ongoing.  They have a meeting on Thursday coming, they’re still onboard and is known, there was correspondence sent to that we needed to respond to certain conditions that they’ve put and we have done so for the record.  So we just await their decision, a final decision on our application for Caye Caulker, to be able to say that we have the financing from SSB to be able to complete the works.”


That, however, depends on whether a revised application will be approved by the statutory body in the days ahead.  According to Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, the project will be completed one way or another.


Manuel Heredia Jr.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism & Civil Aviation

“My final word is [that] it will be at three point five million [dollars].  Either social security or somebody else will [finance it].  We have a backup plan, two backup plans should in case.”



“Should in case SSB does not approve.”


Manuel Heredia Jr.

“Yeah.  It will be a three point five million dollar hot-mixed airport, wider and lights also on the runway.”


While government and BAA are prepared to forge ahead with the plan to reconstruct an aerodrome that conforms to International Civil Aviation Organization standards, the scale of the undertaking will be reduced considerably.  The initial projection for the cost of the project was set at seven million Belize dollars.


Nicholas Ruiz

“A lot has been said about that, initially, as I told you, the board had decided that we wanted a seven million dollar project inclusive of a terminal, fencing, elevated runway, widened runway, markings, lighting for nighttime capacity, flight capacity, and that was the ideal project that we wanted.  As I explained to you, the BAA does not have terminal buildings at its aerodromes and that’s something that the board felt that they wanted to pursue.  Our internal cash flow analysis done by a CPA, a certified public accountant and external auditor, confirmed that from our perspective that we could make the payments, hence we submitted that to the SSB.”


That submission, nonetheless, was not greeted with full endorsement by SSB’s Board of Directors, prompting the airports authority to revise its proposal by reducing the scope of the project considerably.

Nicholas Ruiz

“Eventually we submitted, made an application for the five point five million for the runway works, most importantly.  Again, there was a discussion centering on that to the degree that the BAA listened to what the SSB has to say, we discussed it at the board level and the last application that went to the SSB for a very, very solid project still, seeking to be ICAO compliant; still hot-mixed elevated runway, shoreline protection, lighting included, except for the fencing and the terminal.  So we ended up at three point five [million dollars] with the BAA committing some of its funds and we felt that that was a solid application.  As you know, the Investment Committee okayed it and sent it to the board, but the board had itself some conditions that they wanted for us to look at and, like I told you, we have sent that response and so we await their formal and final decision on Thursday.”


Work on the new aerodrome continues to be deferred until the BAA is able to secure funding for the project.  According to General Manager Nick Ruiz, the timeline for completion once funding has been approved will be six to eight months.


Isani Cayetano reporting for News Five.

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