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Aug 3, 2018

Tourism Minister Breaks His Silence on Cayo Rosario Project

Cayo Rosario is back in the headlines tonight. The island is located on west Ambergris Caye and is part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve expansion where a massive development is being proposed. The multimillion-dollar investment already has an approved ECP from the Department of the Environment. It involves the construction of more than forty over-the-water structures atop two piers at the southern end of the island on the ten acre property. The controversial development has raised the ire of San Pedranos and environmentalists because of the threat it presents to the marine environment and numerous activities have been organized in opposition of the massive project.  The Minister of Tourism, Manuel Heredia Junior, has by and large remained silent to the mounting opposition to the luxury development, but today, he broke his silence.  News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

A multimillion dollar tourism development on a private caye in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve continues to stir controversy, despite the National Environmental Appraisal Committee having given the green light for works to commence. While he has not had an active role in the process, Tourism Minister and Belize Rural South area rep, Manuel Heredia Junior stands in solidarity with stakeholders who have come out against the project.

 

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism

Manuel Heredia Jr.

“We take a look physically on site and then probably give our input or recommendations as to what we believe is suitable for the area, until then, I have to be on the side of my electorate, I have to be on the side of the tour guides because I depend on them at the end of the day. So I will always been on the side of the majority who wants it or not; even though, like I mentioned before, I do believe in sustainable development. I assist and help in whatever capacity I can with developers, but nonetheless, this is one that I believe that I have very little to do with decision-making.”

 

Back in mid-May, San Pedranos, particularly stakeholders in the fisheries and tourism industries, expressed their discontent about the project, which initially called for ninety over the water structures among massive dredging in the reserve. Since then, the project plan has been scaled down where no dredging is permitted and the hovering structures were cut down by half.

 

Omar Figueroa

Omar Figueroa, Minister of State, Ministry of Environment [File: July 17th, 2018]

“The initial proposal called for quite a few over the water structures. I believe NEAC met a few weeks ago and the level of development was scaled down completely, scaled down significantly. And so it might be important, you know, you see you question about massive development is already misleading in so many ways. It is important to get the facts when we talk about massive. There is a proposal there to develop. It does involve over the water structures, whether it is massive or not, you will really need to look at all the details. I know for a fact it was scaled down significantly from the original proposal and a series of measures were put in place to protect the environment out there. I am not sure where we are with the dredging licenses and stuff; that you would need to speak with the Ministry of Natural Resources.”

 

Manuel Heredia Jr.

“I do have a problem whenever the number of over the water structures will be done in any project that will be done. And I believe that I should have been a key person in any of this major project. I was with the Blackadore Development, but very little with this Cayo Rosario one. If it is true that it is forty-two over the water structure that has been approved, I believe it is too much, personally. With the dredging that they already were going to be granted a permit, I put my outcry towards dredging around those shoals in Cayo Rosario. If you recall, those shoals were sold by the past administration in their time and I fought together with the tour guides and Hol Chan to ensure that our government reversed that and they were compensated elsewhere.”

 

In the wake of the outcry, the Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development was formed. Through a sustained campaign, their mission is to protect and enhance natural resources without compromising the livelihood of this and future generations. As tour guide Omar Arceo put it, building on crown land and the effects to the marine reserve is what they are fighting for.

 

Omar Arceo

Omar Arceo, Tour Guide [File: May 16th, 2018]

“To build on the island is not a problem. But to build on the crown land, all the bajos where we do fly fishing, permit, tarpon and bone fish, all around the island is a shallow flat. That is what we are fighting for, we are fighting for that quest that they are not supposed to touch one inch of that flat where I have made my life. Where other guys from the whole town, Pescador, Go Fish, Blue-Bone fish, private users in general have been using it for more than one hundred years but the fly-fishing started in the early seventies. So, right now, we are seeing that they will kill this flat; take it to zero.”

 

Heredia Junior says that a site visit is being organized for a delegation including himself, Figueroa and stakeholders to inspect the island. He pledges that interventions will be made where necessary to avoid any conflict between the developer and stakeholders.

 

Manuel Heredia Jr.

“I believe that as soon as possible we supposed to go on site, look at what is there so that we can tell the developer this is what we feel. If the final approval is not to the liking of the groups over here like tour guides, tour operators, Hol Chan Marine Reserve so that as soon as the project gets started, that they are going over there to do a demonstration which is not good for the industry, not good for the tour guides, not good for myself because I don’t believe in confrontations.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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1 Response for “Tourism Minister Breaks His Silence on Cayo Rosario Project”

  1. Chris Allnatt says:

    What the Minister of Tourism fails to address is the merciless eradication of thousands of birds and chicks already nesting and making their home on Cayo Rosario, once an incredibly critical natural wonder of Belize. This mass slaughter was allegedly done by the developers long before they got any sort of development approval and it was done AFTER Cayo Rosario became part of the protected Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Totally unlawful, people should be in jail for this, this was mass destruction of Belizean wildlife in a protected zone.

    Cayo Rosario is almost as important a nature sanctuary as Half Moon Caye and if left alone the birds will undoubtedly return and roost and breed over time. Could you imagine this madness being allowed in Costa Rica, a direct tourism competitor vs. Belize? People would be in JAIL if that happened there.

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