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Jun 11, 2018

P.M. Gets Award from OCEANA, Coalition

Prime Minister  on Saturday received a special award from Oceana in Belize and the Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage at the Belize Biltmore Plaza. The sculpture of a wave shaped from the root of the mahogany, the national tree of Belize, commemorates a significant milestone for conservationists: Last year the Barrow administration, with bipartisan support, secured passage in the National Assembly of a bill designating a moratorium on offshore petroleum-related activity within a one-kilometer radius of the Belize Barrier Reef. It ultimately became law in December. In accepting the award, as Aaron Humes reports, the Prime Minister said it belongs to all Belizeans who petitioned his government to move forward.

 

Aaron Humes Reporting

After a quip about where he would put the new sculpture – his office in Belmopan or at home – the Prime Minister revealed that his administration had not originally intended on going as far as it did. That it did, he said, is because of the organizing effort conducted by OCEANA and the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage and the strong feelings of Belizeans.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“While the particular step with respect to banning offshore oil exploration in our country is extremely important, it is, of course, just one step. As the speakers before have made clear, ocean conservation is an ongoing exercise, necessitating the deployment of constant vigilance, and a toolbox updated as required, in view of the continuing challenges. I also want to quote Mahatma Gandhi, who famously said: “If the people lead, the leaders will follow.” It is in that context that I pay full tribute to OCEANA in Belize’s mobilization of citizens, to persuade and push government to go farther, I immediately concede, than perhaps might have been our original contemplation. That multifaceted campaign included a particularly comprehensive and instructive effort at education, and it helped raise awareness in a way that I think has enshrined now a widespread public consciousness of the great value of our marine resources, and the corresponding need to always nurture and protect same.”

 

The moratorium has won Belize many good reviews internationally and is one of the reasons the reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is on the verge of being de-listed as a site in danger, as noted by Coalition member and Belize Audubon Society executive director Amanda Burgos-Acosta. But after all, Belizeans and their barrier reef truly are inseparable.

 

Amanda Burgos-Acosta

Amanda Burgos-Acosta, Belize Audubon Society

“We as Belizeans are people of the land and the sea. Our national anthem prides itself in saying we are people by the Caribbean Sea. Many of us cannot imagine our Easters without the sea, without the sea breeze; we cannot imagine our panades without the fish. So to us Belizeans, the sea is our calling; the land is truly who we are. We are people of the Caribbean Sea, and we are working towards this healthy sea. So what does ‘healthy’ mean? Health is defined by your state of well-being. So we need proper management, so we have many partners working toward that; we are currently working toward a new fisheries act. We have to have good planning; we have to have insurance. We recently had the seeing of a mangrove act; that is our insurance, when hurricanes come that is our protection. So we are working toward managing our health. And one of these signs of our improvement is that we are being re-instated into the good books, as I call it, of UNESCO. The plan is that by the end of this month, we will see our World Heritage Site, the Belize Barrier Reef system, now off the endangered list.”

 

And Belize, says OCEANA VP Janelle Chanona, a representative of the younger generation, says thank you.

 

Janelle Chanona

Janelle Chanona, Vice-President, OCEANA Belize

“I firmly believe that if Belize could speak, I think she would say – and I’m reflecting that she’s feminine – but I think she would say that all she wants is to be loved, because if we love something, we protect it; we lock up our cars, we close the gate for the house and we kiss our children goodbye and ask God to bless them because we love them and that’s all we want to be – to be loved and protected. And I think once we see ourselves as part of nature, then the rest is history.”

 

Sofia Reyes

Sofia Reyes, High School Student

“Thank you to all our leaders, who made this law possible. Your legacy has guaranteed that my future can include healthy marine resources. Thanks to you, they are saved from the inherent threats of this dirty and dangerous industry. Because you see, we are the root, we are the foundation, this generation. It’s up to us to take care of this planet; it’s our only home. We must globally warm our hearts, and change the climate of our souls, and realize that we are not apart from nature; we are a part of nature.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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