Association of Protected Areas says ban offshore oil drilling
There have always been accusations of sweetheart land deals which would result in a chosen few acquiring prime property for rock bottom prices. And in some cases areas in reserves have been sold off. There have also been incursions in wildlife conservation posts, the Barrier Reef, and national parks such as the Chiquibul. But never before has there been a singular case that has caused so much upset that it has been compared to a parent renting out a child for abuse. A map devised by the Geology and Petroleum Department in February, called the Belize Petroleum Contracts Map, has come into the possession of News Five. The color coded map shows that the country, including the sea and reef has been divided up amongst seventeen companies, including a casino, to drill for petroleum. The Association of Protected Areas Management Organization (APAMO), the umbrella organization for NGO’s held its annual general meeting today, and its chairman Edilberto Romero, says they are outright against offshore drilling because any oil spill on the seas could result in catastrophic devastation to the country and people.
Edilberto Romero, Chairman of APAMO
“The position of APAMO is to call on the government to put a complete ban on oil exploration on the offshore. The oil exploration activities in the offshore is too risky for our natural resources, too risky for the coral reefs, too risky for the Belize Barrier Reed World Heritage System. APAMO members have agreed to put a resolution to call on the government to put a complete ban on oil exploration on the offshore.”
“What if the government says there is income to be had, there are plans to be put in place for protection in case of a spill? In light of the spill in the U.S. how does APAMO respond?”
“We can look at the revenues generated from oil in the Spanish Lookout area and we can look at the effects that has happened in the sense that even with the best environmental monitoring and mitigation plan, there are still oil spills and it has happened in terrestrial areas in Belize, it has happened in the Gulf of Mexico and it has happened in other parts of the world. Oil exploration here in the offshore of Belize, oil spills can have tremendous damage to the system; to the barrier reef, to the coral reef, to the marine system and the damage and the impact, economically on the different industries of Belize, the tourism industry, fisheries industry could be far more than what we stand to gain in oil exploration. It could mean wiping out the livelihoods of the tourism industry. I think it would be very irresponsible to ignore that and hence APAMO’s call to put a ban on oil exploration in the offshore.”
“To be the devil’s advocate, those in the industry would use that same argument, Reaganomics, the trickledown effect, to say that if you allow us to drill, the masses will benefit from gaining jobs. Respond.”
“There’s an economic assessment that was done on the benefits from the marine resources and the barrier reef; the protection from hurricane, serving as a nursery for fisheries, serving as the base for the tourism industry and you’re talking half a billion dollars in U.S. currency, the value of those resources in the fisheries and the protection of Belize from hurricanes, floods and things like that. I don’t think we should lose that. Whatever could be gained from oil in the offshore is far less than that.”
The companies which have been given concessions to look for oil include: Princess Petroleum Limited; BCH International Limited; BelGeo Limited; Blue Creek Exploration Limited; Island Oil Belize Limited; Miles Tropical Energy Limited; OPIC Resource Corporation; Perenco Belize Limited; PetroBelize; Providence Energy Belize Limited; RSM Production Corporation; SOL Oil Belize; Spartan Petroleum Corporation; US Capital Energy Belize Limited; West Bay Belize Limited and ZMT International Incorporated. When looking at the map, only the few white blocks denote areas which are vacant and have not yet been given to oil prospectors.