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Jul 16, 2018

G.O.B. Recognizes Stakeholders for Their Help in Getting Barrier Reef off UNESCO In Danger List

Public and private sector representatives were recognized today for their contributions towards the removal of the Belize Barrier Reef from the UNESCO list of world heritage sites in danger. It took a little less than ten years for that to happen, but today, Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber and Minister Omar Figueroa singled out fifteen persons who helped in the process. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The government of Belize, specifically deputy prime minister Patrick Faber and Doctor Omar Figueroa of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry and Climate Change held an event today at the Marion Jones Sporting Complex conference room. The ceremony was to award key entities and persons who were instrumental in the years of work to get the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System off the World Heritage Site’s endangered list.

 

Patrick Faber, Deputy Prime Minister

“We were able to have the kind of success that we had because of the personalities and because of the relationships. That is really what was at the foundation of the cooperation that saw us work together in such a short order after many years of practically nothing happening; this is really what brought the grand finale and saw us taken off the list of sites in danger.”

 

The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was first placed on the list of sites in danger back in 2009. Several measures put into law motivated the decision of the UNESCO Committee to remove it from the in danger list. Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber makes reference to the offshore oil moratorium among one of the many structures in place.

 

Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber

“We can speak of the ban on offshore oil exploration; we can speak again of the new regulations on mangroves in this country and then other things…what landed us on the list of sites in danger in the first place; the giving out of land in the reserved areas of our country and then private entities then disregarding regulations—mangrove cutting and all of that. So it is a number of issues, but when those issues were brought to the attention of the government at the time when we were placed on the list of site in danger, there were many other things subsequent to that because at that time some of the dangers were not very plain to see.”

 

Faber says that there are many other factors—manmade as well as natural disasters—that can place a world heritage site on the list of sites in danger. Belize must embrace the threat of climate change to the barrier reef system and needs to take into consideration measures to preserve the reef to refrain it from being back in the same position.

 

Omar Figueroa

Dr. Omar Figueroa, Minister of Fisheries, Forestry & Climate Change

“In 2015, when the government together with the N.G.O. partners sat down and came up with what was called the desired state of conservation, I think a renewed focus took place. Everybody put their hands on the wheel and decided that you know what, this is important and even though it’s not every day that world heritage sites that have been listed become delisted. It is a tremendous challenge; in fact, it is something that the Deputy Prime Minister has mentioned to me almost a dozen times since we came back about how fascinated he was by the process and by countries trying to fight just to stay as listed and not to be removed completely. So it is a serious challenge; it is a challenge that if we are to overcome it, everybody has a role to play and the success of Belize showed and it underscored that everybody—every single one of us that had a role to play—stepped up and played that role.”

 

But could it have been achieved earlier had the government conceded to the cries of the environmental community who for years had been clamouring for better sustainable practices?

 

Patrick Faber

“The government has an obligation to try to provide for its citizenry; it has to ensure that we are sustainable and that the economy is going. And you cannot deny that access to petroleum or exploring for petroleum and once we find petroleum in commercial find is something that is very ideal for any government in terms of the economic situation. And so you cannot fault a government for wanting to look in that direction especially when it is there are things that can show you that it can happen and you can still do some level of preservation. But Belize chose to go a different way. We chose to listen to the environmentalists and others who say that this is a good threat; it is potentially very dangerous to our livelihoods; in the longer-run it is also very dangerous and that is the route that Belize took. Now I am happy that we took that route, but I don’t want to say that we took that route as a result of the pressures if you will from the environmentalists and others because it is also a great position.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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